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Friday, November 18, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 18 NOV 2011 (VIS) - This morning Benedict XVI began the twenty-second apostolic trip of his pontificate which is taking him to Benin where, on Sunday, he will sign the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.

  The Pope departed from Fiumicino airport in Rome at 9 a.m., landing at the Cardinal Bernardin Gantin airport in Cotonou at 3 p.m. On arrival he was greeted by Thomas Yayi Boni, president of Benin, Archbishop Antoine Ganye of Cotonou, and other civil and religious authorities.

  In his address, the Pope enumerated three reasons for his visit to the country: the invitation he had received from the president and the members of the Episcopal Conference of Benin, which this year celebrates the 150th anniversary of evangelisation; the signing of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Africae Munus", and the third "more personal and more emotive" reason of praying before the tomb of Cardinal Gantin and thanking "Benin for having given the Church such a distinguished son".

  The Holy Father continued: "Benin is a country of ancient and noble traditions. Her history is significant. I am pleased to take this opportunity to greet the traditional chiefs. Their contribution is important in the construction of the country's future. I would like to encourage them to contribute, with their wisdom and understanding of local customs, in the delicate transition currently under way from tradition to modernity.

  "Modernity", he added, "need not provoke fear, but neither can it be constructed by neglecting the past. It needs to be accompanied by prudence for the good of all in order to avoid the pitfalls which exist on the African continent and elsewhere, such as unconditional surrender to the law of the market or that of finance, nationalism or exaggerated and sterile tribalism which can become destructive, a politicisation of inter-religious tensions to the detriment of the common good, or finally the erosion of human, cultural, ethical and religious values. The transition to modernity must be guided by sure criteria ... rooted in the dignity of the person, the importance of the family and respect for life. All of these values exist in view of the common good which must take first place, and which must constitute the primary concern of all in positions of responsibility".

  "The Church, for her part, offers her own specific contribution", the Pope concluded. "By her presence, her prayer and her various works of mercy, especially in education and health care, she wishes to give her best to everyone. She wants to be close to those who are in need, near to those who search for God. She wants to make it understood that God is neither absent nor irrelevant as some would have us believe but that He is the friend of man. It is in this spirit of friendship and of fraternity that I come to your country".
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