VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI will make his second trip as pope to Africa, visiting Benin Nov. 18-20 to sign and distribute a letter reflecting on the 2009 special Synod of Bishops for Africa.
The synod focused on “the church in Africa in service to reconciliation, justice and peace.”
At the end of the synod, the bishops gave the pope 57 proposals for action on the part of church leaders and the faithful, including a call for a new spirituality to counter bad government, ethnic tensions, disease, exploitation by multinational companies and the cultural agenda of foreign aid organizations.
Pope Benedict used the propositions as the basis for the postsynodal apostolic exhortation that he will sign Nov. 19 in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Ouidah, Benin, and will present formally to African bishops the next day during a Mass in Cotonou.
With six-hour flights to and from Benin, the pope is scheduled to spend less than 50 hours on the ground in Benin, but his schedule still includes separate meetings with government representatives, with African bishops and with children.
He also is scheduled to pray at the tomb of the late Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, who died in 2008. The Benin cardinal had retired as dean of the College of Cardinals in 2002 and was succeeded by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
Here is the schedule for the trip as released by the Vatican Sept. 28. Times listed are local, with Eastern Standard Time in parentheses:
Friday, Nov. 18 (Rome, Cotonou)
– 9 a.m. (3 a.m.), Departure from Rome’s Fiumicino airport for Cotonou.
– 3 p.m. (9 a.m.), Arrival ceremony at Cotonou’s Cardinal Bernardin Gantin International Airport. Speech by pope.
– 4:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m.), Visit to the Cotonou cathedral. Speech by pope.
Saturday, Nov. 19 (Cotonou, Ouidah, Cotonou)
– 7:30 a.m. (1:30 a.m.), Mass in private in chapel of apostolic nunciature in Cotonou.
– 9 a.m. (3 a.m.), Meeting with members of the government, representatives of state institutions, members of the diplomatic corps and representatives of the principal religions in the presidential palace in Cotonou. Speech by pope.
– 9:50 a.m. (3:50 a.m.), Courtesy visit with President Thomas Yayi Boni in the presidential palace.
– 11:15 a.m. (5:15 a.m.), Visit to the tomb of Cardinal Gantin in the chapel of St. Gall Seminary in Ouidah. Meeting with priests, seminarians, religious and laity in the courtyard of the seminary. Speech by pope.
– 12:15 p.m. (6:15 a.m.), Visit to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Ouidah and signing of the postsynodal apostolic exhortation. Speech by pope.
– 5 p.m. (11 a.m.), Visit to the “Peace and Joy” Center of the Missionaries of Charity at St. Rita parish in Cotonou. Speech by pope. Meeting with children at the parish.
– 6:45 p.m. (12:45 p.m.), Meeting with the bishops of Benin in the apostolic nunciature. Speech by pope.
– 7:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.), Dinner with the bishops of Benin and members of the papal entourage in the apostolic nunciature.
Sunday, Nov. 20 (Cotonou, Rome)
– 9 a.m. (3 a.m.), Mass and presentation of the postsynodal apostolic exhortation to the bishops of Africa in Cotonou stadium. Homily by pope. Recitation of the Angelus. Remarks by pope.
– 12:15 p.m. (6:15 a.m.), Lunch with members of the special council for Africa of the general secretariat of the Synod of Bishops and with the papal entourage in the apostolic nunciature.
– 4 p.m. (10 a.m.), Farewell ceremony at Cardinal Gantin airport. Speech by pope.
– 4:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m.), Departure for Rome.
– 10 p.m. (4 p.m.), Arrival at Rome’s Ciampino airport.