Pontiff in Benin: Don't Neglect the Past to Build Future

Says Virtue Must Guide Transition to Modernity

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COTONOU, Benin, NOV. 18, 2011 (Zenit.org).- As Africa transitions to modernity, Benedict XVI is recommending that prudence and recognized virtues guide the process.

The Pope began today his three-day trip to Benin with an address at the Cotonou airport, in which he stated that «modernity need not provoke fear, but neither can it be constructed by neglecting the past.»

He called for avoiding «the pitfalls which exist on the African continent and elsewhere, such as unconditional surrender to the law of the market or that of finance, nationalism or exaggerated and sterile tribalism which can become destructive, a politicization of interreligious tensions to the detriment of the common good, or finally the erosion of human, cultural, ethical and religious values.»

Instead, the Pontiff recommended taking guidance from «recognized virtues (…) which are firmly rooted in the dignity of the person, the importance of the family and respect for life.»


Benedict XVI emphasized that the common good must be the «primary concern» for everyone in a position of responsibility.

«God trusts in man and desires his good. It is our task to respond, in honesty and justice, to his high expectations,» the Holy Father said.

He also assured the Church’s contribution to these developments, concretely in education and health care, but also by making it understood «that God is neither absent nor irrelevant as some would have us believe but that he is the friend of man.»

Different planet

On board the plane en route to Benin, the Pope also spoke about Africa’s process of change. 

«Naturally, Africa has great problems and difficulties, like all humanity has great problems,» he said in response to a question from a journalist. «If I think about my youth, it was a completely different world than that of today, so much so that I sometimes think I’m living on a different planet from when I was a young man! 

«Humanity finds itself in an ever more rapid process of transformation, and for Africa this process over the last 50-60 years, moving from independence after colonialism up to today, has been very demanding.

Still, the Pontiff said that Africa comes to these problems with a «freshness, a ‘yes’ to life (…) a youthfulness that’s full of enthusiasm and hope. There’s a sense of humor, a joy.»

He lauded as well Africans’ «metaphysical perception of reality, meaning reality in its totality with God. There’s not [in Africa] a rigid positivism, that restricts our life and makes it a little arid, and also turns off hope. I would say there’s a fresh humanism in the young soul of Africa, despite all the problems that exist. There’s a reserve of life and vitality for the future that we can count upon.»

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text of address at welcoming ceremony: www.zenit.org/article-33850?l=english

Full text of press conference on the plane: www.zenit.org/article-33851?l=english

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