Pope in western Africa to outline church's future

By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI | November 18, 2011 | 6:10 AM EST

Pope Benedict XVI waves to reporters as he boards a plane to Benin, at Fiumicino international airport, near Rome, Friday, Nov. 18, 2011. Pope Benedict XVI had his first meeting with Italy's new leader on the tarmac of Rome's airport just before taking off for a trip to Africa. Premier Mario Monti greeted the pope Friday morning as Benedict descended from the helicopter that brought him from the Vatican to Rome's airport. They chatted as they walked slowly across the tarmac to the pope's waiting plane. Benedict then took off for the west African nation of Benin for a three-day visit where he will speak of the role of the church in Africa. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

COTONOU, Benin (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI is making his second trip to Africa, where he plans to outline the church's future for the continent with the fastest growing number of faithful.

Even in Benin, the heartland of the voodoo tradition, the number of Catholics has grown by nearly half in the past decade, adding more than half-a-million converts.

The pope is arriving in West Africa on Friday with a document that will attempt to use church doctrine as a kind of pastoral guide for the faithful.

Benedict's last visit to Africa in 2009 was overshadowed by his controversial comments on condoms. On the plane to Africa, Benedict said that the problem of AIDS was being aggravated by the distribution of condoms, provoking criticism.