ROME, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- Pope Benedict XVI met with new Italian Premier Mario Monti and wished him well in his task of cutting the country's debt, officials said.
"I voice to you, Mr. Premier, my fervid prayers for the good and prosperity of the whole Italian people," the pope said.
ANSA said Monti has the support of Italy's powerful Catholic Church.
The pope later headed for the West African country of Benin, which declared a public holiday for his visit Friday.
It was the pope's second trip to Africa, which has the world's fastest-growing Roman Catholic population, the BBC reported.
Despite growing Catholicism, voodoo is widely practiced. Forty percent of the people follow traditional African religions, the report said.
Benedict will make two speeches on his visit, addressing human rights, justice and reconciliation on the continent of Africa, the BBC said.
In an interview with Vatican Radio, Benin's ambassador to the Vatican said the pope's visit coincides with celebrations marking the anniversary of the start of Christian evangelism in Benin.
On Saturday, the pope will visit Ouidah, where Catholic missionaries first arrived 150 years ago.