Pope Francis begins a three-nation visit to Africa later on Wednesday.
It will be his fourth visit to the continent since he became the head of the Roman Catholic Church in 2013, compared to the two his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, made during his eight-year papacy.
The importance of Africa to the Catholic Church can be summed up in a word – growth.
Africa has the fastest growing Catholic population in the world, while Western Europe, once regarded as the heartland of Christianity, has become one of the world's most secular regions, according to the US-based Pew Research Center.
And many of those who do identify themselves as Christian in Western Europe do not regularly attend church.
In contrast, Christianity, in its different denominations, is growing across Africa. The Pew Research Center predicts that by 2060 more than four in 10 Christians will be in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Roman Catholi..