· Indicated by Benedict XVI upon his arrival at the airport of Cotonou ·
“We should not be afraid of modernity, but it cannot be constructed by forgetting the past.” The Pope, who has just arrived in Benin, has already begun to sow seeds. He arrived at the airport of Cotonou, just before 3pm, Friday, November 18 and immediately began to reveal his objective for the next few days: to restore hope in Africa so that it may rise again and courageously construct its future. But the starting point must be the past; the richness of its great tradition seen in the light of the Gospel, in order to defeat and liberate it from old and new slavery. This is one of the guiding indications of Benedict XVI’s twenty-second international trip, his second to Africa after his visit in March 2009. In a certain sense, this second trip is the conclusion of the first one. Then, he visited Angola and Cameroon, where he delivered the Instrumentum laboris in Yaoundé, from the second special assembly on Africa of the Bishops’ Synod, celebrated in October of 2009 and dedicated to re-iterating the role of the Church in the process of reconciliation, justice and peace which must characterize the tomorrow of this immense continent. Today, he is in Benin to sign and deliver, here in Cotonou, the fruit of the work of that assembly: the post-synodal exhortation, Africae munus , “The commitment of Africa.”
The Pope’s gesture has various meanings for the country. Benedict XVI entrusts his message to a community which has waited for him before concluding the celebrations of their 150th anniversary of the first evangelization. It does so in remembrance of one of its most illustrious sons, who dedicated his whole life to the Church of Rome, Cardinal Bernardin Gantin. The Pontiff, in greeting a festive Benin, recalled the three reasons for his visit.
The welcome ceremony at the international airport of Cotonou, named after the Cardinal from Benin who is considered a national hero, was brief but joyful. When the doors of the Airbus opened, the Pope was greeting by a mix of cheers, and festive African music from representatives of different ethnic groups in traditional costumes.
His first words, responding to the welcome of the President, immediately placed Benedict XVI in harmony with his African audience. The Pontiff made his intentions clear: his desire to confront, together with Africans, the problems of its people and its Church. And the Pope did not hesitate to list those problems from the beginning. They are called, “unconditional submission,” he said, “to the laws of the market or of finance, exasperated or sterile nationalism or tribalism which can become dangerous, extreme politicization of the tensions between religions to the detriment of the common good and finally the crumbling of human, cultural, ethic and religious values.” He recommended, “prudence,” in attempting to avoid these hurdles in the journey towards modernity. How? By being guided by, “sure criteria, based on recognized virtues,” and rooted in, “the dignity of the person, the greatness of the family and respect for life.”
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