Following their ad limina visit to the Rome to meet with Pope Francis the Secretary General of the Benin Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Pascal N’Koue of Parakou, spoke to Agenzia Fides [the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples] about the recent elections in Benin and the pressure of radical Islam in the country.
“Elections were held in a calm atmosphere and everything seems to have gone well, except for some setbacks”, according to Archbishop N’Koue, Archbishop of Parakou. On April 26 parliamentary elections were held in the west African country, which many consider a test for President Thomas Boni Yayi, who is suspected of wanting to change the Constitution to get a third term in the 2016 presidential elections.
“Already in 2013 fears of a possible change of the Constitution to allow the president to get a third term had spread in the country” the Archbishop said. “We intervened with a Pastoral Letter (see Fides 28/08/2013) to say that a possible third term is not possible, and to strengthen the current Constitution”.
“Thanks be to God the people in Benin listens to the voice of the Church and most of them follow what the Bishops say”, said Mgr. N’Koue.
The Archbishop stressed that his country still lives a peaceful situation despite tensions in neighbouring countries. “We must thank the Father in Heaven because we often say that God loves Benin. If you look at what is happening around our country we see so much violence. Saying that God loves Benin is a way of encouraging the people themselves to love their country”.
According to the Archbishop, the Church in Benin is vital “as demonstrated by the large number of baptized. Many knock at the door of the Catholic Church to enter”. We thank God for the vitality of our youth. We thank him also for Catholic schools that continue to open. We know that several leaders of Benin were formed in Catholic schools. We thank the Lord for the unity of the Church: there are no differences between north and south. We are 10 Bishops, 2 from the north and 8 from the south, but there are no problems among us”.
“We also have many vocations”, the Archbishop continued. “The problem is to form a clergy which is up to the challenges we face”.
“Among these”, he says, there is ethical and spiritual relativism. Then there is the infiltration of an Islam that is no longer the traditional African Islam that allows Muslims and non-Muslims to live together peacefully. This now becomes more difficult because there are well-funded Arab groups who come from abroad, which under the guise of helping the poor, begin to introduce violent speeches against Christians. This phenomenon is still weak but we must remain vigilant to carry the flame of love, brotherhood and understanding”.
“Finally, there is the challenge of a pure faith, without syncretism, because we come from traditional African religions. Through baptism we are part of the Church, but many people tend to seek solutions to their problems in the traditional African ceremonies. Our challenge is therefore to ensure that the people can say what St. Paul said: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”, the Archbishop concludes. (Agenzia Fides 30/04/2015)
Last month Bishop Francois Gnonhossou, a priest of the Society of African Missions, was ordained as the second bishop of Dassa-Zoumé in Benin.