Pope’s visit seen as possible counter to African secularization

Bishop Barthélemy Adoukonou speaks with CNA on Nov. 15, 2011
Bishop Barthélemy Adoukonou speaks with CNA on Nov. 15, 2011

.- With only days to go before the Pope arrives in the African country of Benin, Bishop Barthélemy Adoukonou says he hopes Benedict XVI’s visit to his homeland will help Africa resist secularization.

“Some within the secularized culture of the West are trying to direct all mankind in the same direction, and (it’s) the wrong direction,” the secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture told CNA Nov 15.
Bishop Adoukonou said the influence of secularism is “a great injustice against other cultures, including our African culture, which is very much open to God.”

His perspective on the Nov. 18-20 trip is one that is hard to find. He is not only from the southern Beninese city of Abomey, but he also knows Pope Benedict well from being his student at the University of Regensburg in the 1970s.

“All the people of Benin—Catholic and non-Catholic—are waiting for the Pope with joy and a great hope,” he said, looking ahead to this coming weekend. In fact, the Beninese are preparing for the Pope’s arrival by hosting a congress “aimed at reflecting upon the problems in society and issues that the Pope will likely raise in his exhortation.”

The Pope is scheduled to arrive in Cotonou, Benin’s largest city, on Friday afternoon. The primary reason for his visit is to sign the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which was held in Rome in 2009. The document is the Pope’s response to that meeting and it attempts to help chart a path for the future of the Church in Africa.

Bishop Adoukonou says he is eager to hear the Pope expand upon his 2009 description of Africa’s cultural and spiritual riches as the “spiritual lung” of the world. He believes that such an explanation would enable civil society—politically, economically and socially—to “gain a deeper understanding of this definition of the culture of Africa as the lungs of humanity.”

“I therefore hope the exhortation explains why the materialism of the West—a culture often without religion and often without a relationship to God—is not acceptable for other cultures and other nations today, such as those in Africa.”

During his three-day visit, Pope Benedict will also mark the 150th anniversary of the evangelization of Benin and pay a visit to the tomb of his late friend, Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, who died in 2008.

“The Pope and Cardinal Gantin worked together in the Curia for more than 25 years, so a visit to his tomb will be a real personal highlight for the Holy Father,” he said.
Bishop Adoukonou said he hopes Pope Benedict’s visit and exhortation will bring a “fresh impetus” to the life of the Church in Benin, a boost for its “missionary agenda,” and a vision that will help African society create a future “based on reconciliation, peace and justice.”

Benin’s population of 8.8 million has almost three million Catholics.

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