JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Pope Benedict XVI, making his second visit to Africa, departed for Benin on Friday where he is to meet with both Roman Catholic leaders and voodoo chiefs.
Agence France-Presse reported that the Temple of Pythons, a voodoo temple that houses some 30 snakes, stands directly across from the Catholic basilica that the pontiff will visit.
In Benin, considered the home of voodoo, "Catholic and traditional beliefs exist side-by-side and often mix," AFP said.
Voodoo (also spelled Vodon, Vodoun or Voudou) is practiced in other West African countries, including Ghana, Togo, and parts of Nigeria. Voodoo is also famously associated with Haiti, but according to National Geographic, "the roots of the voodoo religion" are in Togo and Benin.
According to the National Catholic Reporter, Pope Benedict recently addressed a group of bishops from Angola and the tiny African island nation of Sao Tome, who were visiting Rome:
Benedict lamented that “the hearts of the baptized” in Africa “are torn between Christianity and traditional African religions.” In particular, the pope pointed to “the marginalization and even murder of children and elderly people, condemned by the false diktats of witchcraft.”
On the Pope's previous visit to Africa, in 2009, he caused a global outcry by saying that condoms were making the HIV/AIDS crisis worse.
The Globe and Mail reported that while in Benin, the Pope will release a document on the future of the Roman Catholic church in Africa.