Pope Francis’ upcoming two-day visit to Morocco is aimed at promoting dialogue with the Muslim world and reaching out to the Christian migrant community, a church official in Rabat told EFE.
Archbishop Cristobal Lopez said that migrants made up the majority of the around 30,000 Roman Catholic worshippers in Morocco, adding they were from over 100 nationalities and mostly young.
The Moroccan church is “made up of more men than women and more blacks than whites,” Lopez explained, referring to the sub-Saharan colonies that have changed the face of the church in the North African country in the past two decades.
A choir of 500 young people, almost all of them sub-Saharan students, are to perform before Francis during the mass he is scheduled to deliver for 10,000 people on Mar. 31 at a stadium located on the outskirts of the Moroccan capital.
The Spaniard said that the church in Morocco was following the pope’s message in dealing with migrants and refugees, by “welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating” them.
“We (at the church) are neither encouraging migration nor preventing it. We do not collaborate with those who want to reach Europe but we are not going to act as a barrier,” Lopez added.
Referring to the pontiff’s trip to the United Arab Emirates in Jan., Lopez said Francis was clearly intending to promote interreligious dialogue and fraternity between different faiths, with an aim to achieve peace and a better world.
“The pope always insists on building bridges where many want to build walls. Muslims and Christians are not enemies or adversaries," he said. "We are brothers and sisters, believers in one true God,” Lopez added.
Francis is to be welcomed by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI at the Rabat airport and then pay a visit to the Royal Palace.
On the first day of his trip, Mar. 30, Francis is expected to head to a Caritas center, where Catholic aid workers help migrants with their health, educational and legal issues.
The pontiff will also visit on Mar. 31 a social service center run by the Daughters of Charity, as well as a center for patients suffering from burn injuries.
In Morocco, citizens cannot legally convert to Christianity and those who have done so practice their faith in secret.
Last month, Francis led an open-air mass in the United Arab of Emirates, as part of his historic trip as the first head of the Catholic Church to set foot on the Arabian Peninsula.
Hundreds of thousands of people attended the mass at Zayed Sports City Stadium in the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi.