Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

IN THE PAPERS

'I love the Socialists'

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

No strategy and a beige suit

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

South Africa: Four men found guilty of shooting Rwandan exile

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - August 29th, 2014

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - August 29th, 2014 (part 2)

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

French Prime Minister calls on ECB to go further to help economy

Read more

WEB NEWS

France: fighting political corruption with transparency

Read more

WEB NEWS

Using the web to further the cause: ISIS vs USA

Read more

ENCORE!

Alain Choquette: A Hilarious Magician in Paris

Read more

  • Iraqi forces free Armeli in biggest victory over IS militants since June

    Read more

  • Anti-government protesters storm Pakistan's state TV

    Read more

  • PSG trounce Saint-Etienne 5-0 with Ibrahimovic hat trick

    Read more

  • Putin calls for 'statehood' talks on eastern Ukraine

    Read more

  • Rescue efforts under way after French apartment block blast

    Read more

  • Poland marks 75 years since German invasion of WWII

    Read more

  • Israel appropriates large tracts of West Bank land

    Read more

  • Tension rises in Hong Kong as Beijing rejects open elections

    Read more

  • French police stop 'teenage jihadist' from flying to Syria

    Read more

  • Kidnapped Yazidi women 'sold to Islamists' in Syria

    Read more

  • Confusion reigns after Lesotho 'coup'

    Read more

  • France's Simon beats Ferrer to advance to last 16 in US Open

    Read more

  • French PM vows to safeguard 35-hour work week

    Read more

  • Inside Novoazovsk – the pro-Russians' latest conquest

    Read more

  • Filipino UN troops escape Islamists in Golan Heights

    Read more

  • Fugitive British killer returns to French psychiatric hospital

    Read more

Africa

Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Benin

Video by Katharyn GILLAM

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-11-18

Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Benin, West Africa, Friday where he was greeted by Catholics carrying umbrellas carved with his image. The number of Catholics in Benin, the heartland of the voodoo tradition, has grown by nearly half in the past decade.

AP - Catholics carrying umbrellas decorated with Pope Benedict XVI's image greeted him Friday as he embarked on his second trip to Africa, where he plans to outline the church's future for the continent with the fastest growing number of faithful.

Even in Benin, the heartland of the voodoo tradition, the number of Catholics has grown by nearly half in the past decade, adding more than half-a-million converts at the same time when congregations are declining in Europe.

Several hundred women lined the tarmac awaiting his arrival, wearing dresses with his face on them. Supporters from each parish wore a different colour headscarf, blue, green, red and yellow. The faithful used umbrellas and even pieces of paper to shield their faces from the blazing sun as temperatures reached 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit).

At the cathedral where the 84-year-old pope was to speak later Friday, schoolchildren in their uniforms lined the sidewalks in anticipation. The pope has arrived on Africa's western coast with a document that will attempt to use church doctrine as a kind of pastoral guide for the faithful.

The guide is aimed at addressing the ills of a continent whose progress has been routinely derailed by war. ``May this document fall into the ground and take root, grow and bear much fruit,'' the pope said upon arrival.

The guide is based in part on the 57 recommendations of the 2009 synod held in Cameroon's capital, where bishops met to articulate the church's role in Africa.

Among the recommendations is a “sacrament of reconciliation'' which will use the church's dogma of forgiveness as a tool to try to resolve violence. In remote parts of Africa where there are no courts and no police force, communities have often created their own rituals of reconciliation.

One of the proposals that may be included in the papal document is to do an in-depth study of these practices in order to try to learn from them.

Priests who have traveled from neighboring countries to see the pope say that the idea of looking to African traditions shows that the Catholic faith has become more supple since colonial times, when becoming Christian meant turning your back on tradition.

Cameroonian priest Fr. Jean Benoit Nlend says that among his country's Bassa people, numerous rituals have been created to deal with life's conflicts. If a man beats his wife and she returns to her parent's home, the husband can only get her back if he comes with plates of food, and negotiates a cash amount to be paid to her kin in reparation.

“In my seminary in Cameroon, we went around the table and talked about the types of rituals our ancestors performed to fix problems that arose in the society. If you try to destroy these things, you render the people fragile. You take away their moral coordinates,'' said Nlend, an editor at Cameroon's Episcopalian publication.

“Catholicism is a much more supple religion now than it once was. The church shouldn't try to chase away African culture. What it needs to do is act like a sieve, and remove only the things that don't help human beings evolve.” he said.

Because of this more supple attitude toward African culture, Catholicism is booming on the continent. Africa has become the world's feeder church, said Catholic scholar Lamin Sanneh, a Yale Divinity School professor who is from the African nation of Gambia.

``Europe is now looking to Africa to replenish its churches. In France, the most famous Catholic seminary has more priests in training from Africa than from all of Europe,'' said Sanneh, who is himself a native of Gambia, a small nation north of Benin.

Fr. Andre Quenum, the publisher of main Catholic weekly in Benin, says Africans have been particularly drawn to the church's teachings because of the poverty and violence that have wracked the continent.

"One of the consequences of modernity in Europe is that people have been able to solve many of the problems of daily life. If you fall sick you can go to a clinic,'' he said. ``Here when you get sick, you could very well die. So we put our problems in God's hands,'' he said. ``And this is where the pope has seen our potential.''

To prepare for the pope's visit, parishes throughout the country were given a special prayer asking for reconciliation. ”Our father, you have created man and woman in your image,” says the text of the prayer.

“But they distance themselves from you by their tribal divisions, their violence, and their wars. May the visit of Pope Benedict XVI create in us the desire to reconcile ourselves.”

The government of Benin also issued public service announcements encouraging people to clean up the city ahead of the pope's arrival. One billboard showed a picture of the pope, next to three suggestions: Sweep your street, pick up garbage and repaint your house. On state television, an entire segment was dedicated to showing how a local church had revarnished their pews.

In Ouidah, nuns were working around the clock putting the finishing touches on the chapel housing the tomb of a cardinal that was a personal friend of Benedict's. The pontiff is expected to pray there on Saturday.

On the tiled floor was a pile of pastel-colored bows, the kind you might use to decorate a present. The nuns were instead taping the pink bows to each of the chapel's columns.

Date created : 2011-11-18

  • SPAIN

    Pope Benedict XVI urges young Catholics to spread faith

    Read more

  • VATICAN

    Pope says condom use allowed 'in certain cases'

    Read more

  • VATICAN

    Pope's condom remark 'doesn't change' contraception ban

    Read more

COMMENT(S)