Pope Francis travels Morocco, continues to try to strengthen relations with Muslim world

Posted on: March 29th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Birute/iStock(ROME) — Following his visit to the United Arab Emirates last month, Pope Francis sets off on another trip this weekend to continue his effort to foster interfaith dialogue and strengthen relations with Islam and the Muslim world.

“Starting in the Emirates, in the eastern part of the Arab world and now going to the Western part, the pope wishes to embrace the whole Arab World from East to West as a sign of peace, welcome and encounter,’’ Adname Mokrani Professor at the Pontifical Insittute for Arabic and Islamic studies told Rome Reports this week.

Morocco is 99 percent Muslim with a tiny but dynamic Catholic community of about 23,000, mostly European expatriates.

Addressing the Moroccan people in a video message presented ahead of his visit, the pope said he was coming “as a pilgrim of peace and of fraternity, in a world which has great need of both.”

“As Christians and Muslims we believe in God the Creator and Merciful One, who has created men and women and placed them on the earth so that they might live together as brothers and sisters, respecting each other’s diversity and helping each other in their need,” the pontiff said in the message.

On Saturday, he will visit an imam-training institute — the first pope to make such a visit — where he will listen to speeches from two student imams. Opened in 2015 as part of a government effort to counter terrorism and fundamental Islam, the school teaches more than 700 students from Morocco, sub-Sahara and Europe enrolled annually.

Another significant moment during the trip will be when he meets about 60 migrants at a Caritas charity center. The country has become a main transit point for many migrants trying to reach Europe.

Before flying back to Rome on Sunday, he will celebrate Mass for some 10,000 faithful.

Pope Francis is the second pope to visit Morocco; Pope John Paul II visited in 1985.

This is the third international trip the pope has made this year. He has three more scheduled so far: to Bulgaria and Northern Macedonia at the beginning of May; to Romania at the end of May; and to Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius in September.

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