.- Pope Benedict XVI completed his three-day visit to Benin with a firm prediction that Africa can give a great Christian witness to the rest of the world.
“It is a continent for which I have a special regard and affection, for I am deeply convinced that it is a land of hope,” he said at his departure ceremony at Cardinal Bernardin Gantin Airport in the city of Cotonou, Nov. 20.
“Here are found authentic values which have much to teach our world; they need only to spread and blossom with God’s help and the determination of Africans themselves.”
Pope Benedict spoke after to a farewell address by President Thomas Boni Yayi of Benin. The president and other civil leaders listened as the Pope explained his hope that his new apostolic exhortation “Africae Munus” can “greatly assist” Africa’s flourishing.
“I entrust it to the faithful of Africa as a whole, to study carefully and to translate into concrete actions in daily life,” said the Pope.
He told President Yayi that the multi-religious Benin is a good example of the possibility of “harmonious coexistence within the nation, and between Church and State” and is proof that mutual respect “not only aids dialogue, but is essential for building unity between individuals, ethnic groups and peoples.”
The Pope noted that “fraternity” is the first of three words on Benin’s national emblem. He said this shows that “living in unity as brethren, while respecting legitimate differences, is not something utopian.”
“Why should an African country not show the rest of the world the path to be taken towards living an authentic fraternity in justice, based on the greatness of the family and of labor?”
Before boarding his chartered Alitalia flight back to Rome, Pope Benedict thanked God for three days spent “in joy and friendship” with the people of Africa. He encouraged the entire continent to be “the salt of the earth and the light of the world.”
“May God bless you all, through the intercession of Our Lady of Africa,” he concluded, proclaiming in the local language of Fon “God bless Benin!”