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Catholic Bishops in Benin Call for Respect of Human Dignity amid Surge in Ritual Crimes

Bishop Eugène Cyrille Houndékon reading the message of members of the Episcopal Conference of Benin (CEB)/ Credit: Courtesy Photo

Catholic Bishops in Benin are calling on the people of God in the West African nation to uphold human dignity amid an increase in reported cases of ritual crimes that have resulted in mob justice.

The members of the Episcopal Conference of Benin (CEB) who concluded their three-day meeting Thursday, May 20 condemn “the resurgence of ritual crimes and human sacrifices in some parts of our country, sometimes leading to mob justice.”

In their collective statement, the Catholic Bishops invite “everyone to respect the dignity of human life, which belongs above all to God and for which man will one day give an account.”

“We urge the population to refrain from taking justice into their own hands,” the Bishops caution in their message delivered at the Bishop Louis Parisot Major Seminary Tchanvédji in south-western Benin, expressing their condemnation of mob justice.

Benin, a country of 11.8 million people, has witnessed an upsurge in cases of ritual crimes. 

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People have been found dead in abandoned buildings or in the bushes. Traditional healers also target people with albinism owing to the belief that their organs can promote the cure of some illnesses.

In their May 20 collective statement issued at the end of their third ordinary plenary session for the pastoral year 2020/2021, the Catholic Bishops in Benin call for conversion saying, “May the perpetrators of these crimes repent from their evil ways and seek the mercy of God.”

The Plenary Assembly examined issues relating to Seminaries and houses of formation for future Priests.

CEB members also welcomed the new Apostolic Nuncio in Benin and Togo, Archbishop Mark Gerard Miles, whom Pope Francis appointed in February 2021. They implored the abundance of divine graces for a fruitful apostolic ministry at the service of the people of God in the two West African countries.

In their May 20 statement signed by CEB President, Bishop Victor Agbanou, the Catholic Bishops express concern about “the divisions among politicians, multiple arrests, the climate of mistrust and fear which reigns in the heart of the population and the expression of various feelings of frustration.”

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The Catholic Church leaders appeal for “the construction of a new order of living together based on the contribution of all, in dialogue, tolerance and reconciliation in line with the motto of our country: Fraternity - Justice - Work.”

Making reference to Pope emeritus Benedict XVI during his visit to Benin in November 2011, the Bishops say, “The word Fraternity, which is part of our motto invites us to live together as brothers, despite our legitimate differences.”

They add, “It is for us to show the rest of the world the way to live an authentic fraternity in justice based on the greatness of family and work.”

“May God, the Sovereign Master of all peoples, continue to bless and protect our country, Benin,” CEB members implore, and invoke the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church in the West African nation.