19 Nov 2011

Pope in Benin

7:19 am on 19 November 2011

Pope Benedict XVI is in Benin on his second visit to Africa.

Huge crowds welcomed the pontiff at the airport in the city of Cotonou.

The BBC reports there is huge excitement across the country and some 10,000 pilgrims are expected from neighbouring countries.

Friday was declared a public holiday, Cotonou's streets have been cleaned and buildings are adorned with welcoming posters.

Pope Benedict was greeted by a 21-gun salute after he landed in Cotonou, Benin's largest city, where he was met by President Thomas Yayi Boni.

Benin is widely seen as the home of Voodoo and the religion is followed by some 40% of the country's population.

Catholic missionaries first arrived in Ouidah 150 years ago and the city has the largest Catholic seminary in West Africa.

The city's cathedral was built on land which was originally a sacred Voodoo site where offerings are made to the gods. It now overlooks a temple where the snake-god is worshipped.

High-ranking Voodoo priests have been invited to meet the Pope.

The Pope is expected to address the questions of human rights, justice and reconciliation on the continent.

On Saturday, he is to sign a formal apostolic exhortation entitled The Pledge for Africa (Africae Munus in Latin), which covers these subjects.

"May this document fall into the ground and take root, grow and bear much fruit," the Pope said upon his arrival.