COTONOU, Benin (Reuter) - The Pope arrived in Benin yesterday, the first stop on an eight-day African tour that will also take him to Uganda and Sudan. During the arrival ceremony, the cape of his cassock blew over his head as a Beninese girl came forward to greet him. After Cardinal Angelo Sodane lifted the cape, the Pope blessed the girl. Later, the pontiff criticised predominantly Muslim countries which try to impose Islamic law on people of other religions. 'The role of the Church, the Holy See and the bishops is to remind leaders of Muslim countries that Islamic law can be applied only to Muslim faithful,' he said. 'You absolutely cannot impose this law on those of other faiths, who are Christians.' Benin is about a quarter Christian and 13 per cent Muslim. The rest of the population of 4.9 million follow traditional religions such as voodoo.
The church in Sudan has been under strong pressure from the Muslim-fundamentalist inspired government, which is fighting a 10-year-old war against rebels in the Christian-and animist-dominated south.