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On Benin Trip, Pope Has Message for Africa

Billboard announces Papal visit to Benin's largest city, Cotonou, Nov. 16, 2011.

Pope Benedict XVI travels to the West African country of Benin on Friday, where he is expected to urge African nations to work towards peace, justice and reconciliation.

The 84-year-old pontiff is scheduled to arrive in Cotonou for a three-day visit to a country whose Roman Catholic population has soared in recent years.

At least 30 percent of Benin's population is now Catholic, and the continent has the fastest-growing Catholic population in the world.

During the trip, Pope Benedict is expected to sign a proclamation of the church's plans for Africa. The document is based on conclusions reached by a group of African bishops who met in 2009 to discuss challenges in Africa including conflict, corruption and poverty.

Benedict will also meet with traditional religious leaders, including practitioners of voodoo.

This will be the second time Pope Benedict has traveled to Africa. During a 2009 trip to Cameroon and Angola, the pontiff said he was opposed to the use of condoms as a way of preventing AIDS, sparking a firestorm of criticism.

Benedict said distributing condoms only increased the AIDS problem, and he said teaching abstinence and fidelity is the only way to combat the disease.

Health officials and activists said the pope's remarks were unrealistic and unscientific.

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