.- Pope Benedict XVI will visit the West African country of Benin from Nov. 18 to 20 this week. He has asked for prayers for his upcoming trip and for “the people of the beloved African continent,” especially those who suffer insecurity and violence.
“May Our Lady of Africa accompany and support the efforts of all the people who work for reconciliation, justice and peace,” he told French-speaking pilgrims after the Angelus on Nov. 13.
Pope Benedict will visit for the release of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. The synod took place in Rome on Oct. 2009.
In his Sunday remarks, the Pope cited the parable of the talents. He said that God has given each person gifts, entrusting them with the responsibility to make their gifts “fruitful.” Christ’s words guided the works of the special assembly, the Pope said.
“I hope to repeat them all as I prepare to go to Benin to reconfirm faith and hope of the Christians in Africa and adjacent islands.”
The Pope is scheduled to arrive at Cardinal Bernardin Gantin airport in Benin’s largest city, Cotonou, at 3 p.m. local time on Nov. 18. He will visit the city’s cathedral later that day.
On Nov. 19 he will meet with government officials, civil society representatives, diplomats and religious leaders at the Presidential Palace of Cotonou before making a courtesy visit with the country’s president.
He will visit the tomb of Cardinal Bernardin Gantin and meet with priests, seminarians, religious and lay faithful at St. Gall Seminary in Ouidah. He will then visit Ouidah’s Basilica of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, where he will sign the apostolic exhortation.
Later that day he will meet with children and with the bishops of Benin.
On Sunday, Nov. 20 he will celebrate a 9 a.m. Mass at a Contonou stadium and recite the Angelus. After lunching with synod leaders, he will deliver a farewell address at the Cotonou airport and depart at 4:30 p.m. local time.
There are almost three million Catholics in Benin, out of a population of about 8.8 million. The country has 11 bishops, 684 diocesan priests and 127 religious priests, over 1,200 professed religious and over 11,000 catechists.