Pope Benedict XVI has embarked on an official visit to Benin, and the message to his followers on the African continent are packed in music. In a three-day stay in Cotonou from 18 to 20 November the leader of the Roman Catholic church will address a gathering of bishops from all over Africa. They will be presented with 'The Pledge for Africa', an authoritative document talking about the church efforts in promoting reconciliation, justice and peace, following up on a meeting in 2009 at the Vatican by a gathering of African bishops.
The Vatican is looking to spread the message to the masses, and like many governments and NGOs do nowadays, they hired the services of three of the continent's most popular musicians. Congolese musical eminence Papa Wemba, himself a devoted catholic, already met the Pope in 2009.
Together with Bonga from Angola and Fifito from Guinee, Papa Wemba participated in the recording of a compilation called 'Afrika tenda amani' (Swahili for 'Africa, act in peace') consisting of eight songs introducing the overall theme of the Pope's visit and includes snippets of the voices of the three Popes who paid Africa a visit. The disks are distributed to Catholic radio stations on the continent. Papa Wemba and his band were also invited to play in Benin this weekend in front of the Pope.
Benedict's attitude to the progress of Africa has not always been well received: his remarks on condom use and his stance on traditional religion were the subject of controversy. Ironically, Benin is the home of the most famous form of traditional religion: vodoun (voodoo) and the cathedral in the city of Ouidah was built on top of a piece of land where vodoun offerings were made.
The Pope's ban on condom use was alleviated a bit last year as he commented that condoms should be allowed in 'certain cases'. While it's unlikely that he will change his statements while in Benin, the Pope's huge following across Africa takes his words to heart.