Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze says Pope Benedict’s upcoming visit to Benin will leave behind a positive and lasting legacy for all Africans.
“Catholics, other Christians in Africa and, indeed, those who are not Christian are all concerned in this visit,” the cardinal told Vatican Radio on Nov. 17.
Cardinal Arinze, 79, will accompany Pope Benedict on his three day visit to the small West African state which starts tomorrow. The Cardinal served as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship until 2008 when he retired.
The primary reason for the Pope’s visit is to allow the pontiff to sign the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation from 2009's synod of African bishops in Rome. The document—which is the Pope’s own response to that meeting—aims to help chart a path for the future of the Church in Africa.
Cardinal Arinze explained that the topic of that synod in 2009 was the Church in Africa “in the service of reconciliation, justice and peace” and noted that “this concerns all of us all...these go beyond religious frontiers.”
He hopes that many Africans will read the exhortation since “in these days of modern especially the computer—it is not difficult to download the full document so that it can be studied carefully by individuals and groups.”
Cardinal Arinze added that he wants journalists, academics, teachers, politicians and other societal leaders to “dissect it, digest it, study it and ask themselves what action this document asks us to take to promote reconciliation, justice and peace in our continent?”
Benin’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Theodore Loko, echoed the cardinal's hopes and told Vatican Radio that the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation was “very important because when we look at the topics it deals with they are the important problems in Africa.”
He predicted that if Africans “pay attention to these topics and the speeches of the Pope,” over the next three days then the whole continent will “gain a lot,” as it attempts to “address the problems we have in Africa—and God knows we’ve got a lot,” he said.
During his three day visit, Pope Benedict will also mark the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first Catholic missionaries to Benin and will pay a visit to the tomb of his late friend, Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, who died in 2008. The two worked together in the Roman curia for over 25 years.
Ambassador Loko recalled how Pope Benedict had once described Cardinal Gantin to him as “an African who gave much to the world.”
Cardinal Gantin is “a son of Benin who can be called today the first ambassador of Benin because through him many people know about Benin,” said the ambassador, adding that “among the people of Benin he is seen as a model of service.”