News / Africa

Pope Signs Pledge for Africa

Pope Benedict XVI, center, takes his place as he arrives at the basilica in Ouidah, Benin, November 19, 2011.
Pope Benedict XVI, center, takes his place as he arrives at the basilica in Ouidah, Benin, November 19, 2011.

Pope Benedict XVI signed a Catholic Church pledge for Africa Saturday on the second day of his visit to the West African country of Benin.

The document reflects the recommendations of African church leaders who in 2009 studied the continent's challenges including conflict, poverty and corruption.

Addressing the issue of AIDS, the document says the disease is, above all, an ethical problem and calls for changes in behavior, including sexual abstinence and rejection of promiscuity.

On his first trip to Africa in 2009, the pope stirred controversy when he suggested to reporters on his plane that condoms aggravate the AIDS problem. He has since seemed to back off from that position, and has not even mentioned condoms during this visit.

The pope is carrying other messages as well. Earlier Saturday, he urged African leaders not to rob their people of hope.

In a reference to corruption and good governance, Pope Benedict told political and religious leaders at the presidential palace in Benin's commercial capital of Cotonou not to cut off the people "from their future by mutilating their present."

The presentation of the apostolic exhortation is a highlight of the pontiff's three-day trip to Africa, home to the world's fastest-growing Roman Catholic population.

The pope said he chose Benin as the venue to deliver his document because of the country's exemplary peaceful co-existence between Christianity, Islam and traditional religions.

Despite Benin's strong voodoo tradition, the Catholic population in the small West African country has surged to 30 percent in recent years.  While in Benin, the pope also was expected to meet with leaders of traditional religions.

Upon his arrival in Cotonou on Friday, the 84-year-old pontiff was warmly greeted by thousands of people.  Many women wore dresses with his face printed on them.

This is the pope's second trip to Africa. In 2009, he traveled to Cameroon and Angola.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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