* Big, colourful crowd at last main event on trip
* Papal document appealed for honest leadership
* Pope holding up well despite heat and humidity
By Philip Pullella
COTONOU, Benin, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict
celebrated a big open-air Mass on Sunday, capping a trip to
Africa where he appealed to leaders to serve their people
honestly and to developed nations to shun a condescending,
know-it-all attitude towards the continent.
The crowd of some 50,000 people in Cotonou's Friendship
Stadium in the largest city of Benin went wild as the pope
entered. His reception in the West African country has been by
far one of the most exuberant on all of his 22 foreign trips.
The crowd, many dressed in colourful robes and dresses
emblazoned with his picture, danced and swayed as they chanted
in the local Fon language and French.
In his homily in French, the pope urged his listeners "to be
attentive to the cry of the poor, the weak and the outcast" and
sent a special greeting "those affected by AIDS or other
illnesses, to all those forgotten by society".
The 84-year-old German pope has held up well on the
three-day trip despite the heat and high humidity. Vatican
spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the pontiff's health was
While Sunday's closing event was a ceremony of worship, the
main purpose of the trip, the pope's second to Africa since his
election in 2005, was to sign a major papal document he wrote to
address the Roman Catholic Church's view of the continent's
In the document, which reflected the results of a synod of
African bishops at the Vatican in 2009 and was signed on
Saturday, he told African leaders that justice was a fundamental
prerequisite of peace and prosperity.
It also said African leaders must shun corruption and use
natural resources for the good of their people and that
Catholics in Africa should have good ties with Islam and
traditional religions without compromising their own identity.
In its brief section on AIDS, the pope avoided directly
addressing the issue of the use of condoms to fight the spread
of the disease.
He sparked controversy in 2009 when he told reporters on his
plane to Africa that condoms could actually spread Aids. The
Vatican later said his remarks were taken out of context.
In the document, known as an Apostolic Exhortation, the pope
said AIDS was, above all, an ethical problem.
He called for a "change of behaviour" and repeated the
Church's teaching that the best way to fights AIDS is sexual
abstinence, rejection of sexual promiscuity, and fidelity within
During the trip he also said the developed world should not
look down on Africa "with the judgmental tone of a moraliser"
and impose rules, but had to come up with real solutions of
partnership to help solve the continent's many problems.
The pope said he chose Benin as the sole venue to deliver
his document because in many ways the former French colony was
exemplary. Benin made one of Africa's few peaceful transitions
to democracy in 1990 after a period of Marxist-Leninist rule
that had been supported by the former Soviet Union and Cuba.
Unlike some of its neighbours where inter-religious strife
is rife, particularly Nigeria, Benin enjoys mostly peaceful
coexistence between Christianity, Islam and traditional
(Reporting By Philip Pullella)
© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.