As Islamist groups active in the Sahel are beginning to expand their influence into Benin, more than seven thousand Catholic faithful have made the traditional Marian pilgrimage to the grotto of Our Lady of Arigbo, in Dassa-Zoumé, in the center-south of the country.
The pilgrimage, which took place from August 16-18, 2019, is the largest Catholic event in Benin, a country with 23% Catholic population out of 8.5 million.
This religious event owes its origin to Bishop Louis Parisot, a missionary to Dahomey—formerly Benin—who organized it for the first time in 1954, on the occasion of the centenary of the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by the Pope Pius IX.
The pilgrimage traditionally hosts, in mid-August, thousands of pilgrims from Benin, Togo, Burkina-Faso, Côte-d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Niger, but also from France and Italy. Six bishops and 150 priests participated in the procession. The closing ceremony was presided over on Sunday, August 18, by Cardinal Jean Zerbo, Archbishop of Bamako, Mali.
The faithful have specially prayed to Mary Immaculate for the protection of their countries against creeping Islam. On July 15, 2019, a United Nations report revealed that Islamic terrorist groups implanted in the Sahel are increasingly encroaching on the borders of Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, and Togo. May the Virgin, strong as an army arrayed in battle, protect her children from this barbarity.