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Benin and the bishop who will welcome the Pope

October 6, 2011
Archbishop Antoine GanyeIn my time covering the Church, I've had the opportunity to meet bishops from around the world, of all different leadership styles and personalities. I've often been struck by stories I hear from bishops in Africa. I've been told that in Africa, the bishop is not just an authority figure. He walks with the people; he is part of the daily life of his city, perhaps even more so than Western bishops, due to cultural differences.
In my research for the Pope's upcoming trip to Benin -- a small western African nation between Togo and Nigeria -- one headline caught my eye. On a news website from that country, one of the top headlines read "The Bomb Diffused". The picture accompanying the headline was a bishop in his vestments.
The article explained that public servants in the customs and finance sectors were set to go on strike. That would have paralyzed Benin's daily economy, as nobody would have been able to access their money or collect government subsidies. Benin is not a wealthy nation. The average monthly income per capita is $750 USD. The strike was causing great concern, particularly in the current global economic climate.
The Archbishop of Cotonou, Antoine Ganye, appears to have stepped in and encouraged the two sides to sit down and talk. According to the article, the two sides met with the Archbishop to sit down and hear each other out.
This strike-ending Archbishop is the one who will welcome Pope Benedict XVI to Benin in November and accompany him throughout his short stay. Archbishop Ganye was installed as Archbishop of Cotonou in October of 2010.
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