By Souad Sbai
With the visit to Rabat on March 30 and 31, Pope Francis’ religious diplomacy continues in the Middle East and North Africa. The Pontiff will meet King Mohammed VI immediately after his arrival in Rabat (scheduled for 2 pm today) to talk about integration, freedom and rights of Christians in Morocco.
The goal of Pope Francis’ religious diplomacy in the Middle East and North Africa is to promote new perspectives for peaceful coexistence in the region. Pillar of the moderate Arab-Muslim world, Morocco is seen by the Holy See as the ideal partner to concretely implement the principle of the protection of minorities.
The Moroccan Constitution establishes that Islam is the state religion but at the same time guarantees religious freedom. Furthermore, promoted by King Mohammed VI, in 2016 was launched in Marrakech the “Declaration on the Rights of religious minorities in Muslim-Majority communities” that was signed by hundreds of leaders of different religious groups and organizations, as well as scholars and intellectuals, both Muslims and of other faiths, coming from over 120 countries.
Pope Francis will meet Mohammed VI immediately after his arrival in Rabat (scheduled for 2 pm today) to talk about integration, freedom and the rights of Christians in Morocco. There are around 50,000 Catholics, coming from sub-Saharan Africa and Europe, who are eagerly awaiting Pope Francis’ arrival.
The Pope will also visit the Mohammed VI Institute for the training of imams and scholars, men and women: a sign that Morocco for the Vatican is a point of reference also in the fight against the indoctrination and the radicalization that lead to recruitment in terrorist groups like ISIS or Al Qaeda.
Before the mass with the Catholic community to be held on Sunday afternoon at the “Prince Moulay Abdellah” sporting complex, the Pope will make other religious, social and humanitarian visits. He will meet with the Ecumenical Council of Churches and members of the clergy and local religious communities. He will also visit the diocesan Caritas headquarters in the capital where he will meet a group of migrants and a center run by the Company of the Daughters of Charity that provides assistance services.
The celebration of the mass before more than 10,000 faithful will focus on the communication and dialogue between religions, renewing the message already launched in his previous visit to Abu Dhabi against extremism, intolerance and in favor of the meeting between peoples, religions and civilization.
This is the second time that a Pope has traveled to Morocco. The first dates back to 1985 and has remained in history: Pope John Paul II spoke in Casablanca on August 19 to 80,000 young Muslims about the need to build a society governed by a greater fraternity among different religious groups. 34 years later, Pope Francis’ visit will follow the same line, especially after the tensions caused by the racist terrorist attack against the mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed 50 Muslim faithfuls.
The new embrace given by Francis to the Islamic world, represented in Rabat by the figure of Mohammed VI, will serve to encourage Christians and Muslims to continue along the path of dialogue and cooperation to build the society already invoked by Pope John Paul II, overcoming all the obstacles that will appear along their common path.
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