The Latest on Pope Francis’ trip to Morocco: (all times local):
Moroccans who converted to Christianity are hoping Pope Francis’ visit will compel Moroccan authorities to become more tolerant of respecting religious freedom.
The number of Moroccan converts from Islam is estimated to between 2,000 and 6,000. They must practice Christianity privately, often holding house Masses and having to hide their religious affiliations for fear of prosecutions and arrests.
Many came to the kingdom’s capital, Rabat, to attend Francis’ Mass on Sunday.
Adam Rbati, a Moroccan Christian, told The Associated Press that he was pleased the pope made the visit and hoped it would lead to positive change.
Rbati said: “We are really happy. With this visit, we want to tell the pope and the Moroccan society that we are proud to be Christians. It might not change much, but it will certainly create the space for future positive change.”
He is attending the Mass with his wife, also a Moroccan Christian, and their newborn son.
Pope Francis is turning his attention to Morocco’s small Christian community during a two-day visit after already reaching out to the kingdom’s Muslim majority and calling for a greater welcome for its growing number of migrants.
On his second and final day in Morocco, Francis is visiting a church-run social services center, meeting with Catholic priests and other Christian representatives, and celebrating a Mass on Sunday.
Morocco has become the main departure point in Africa for migrants attempting to reach Europe after Italy essentially closed its borders to asylum-seekers leaving from Libya.
Francis thanked Morocco on Saturday for protecting migrants and warned that walls won’t stop people from trying to escape terrible conditions in their home countries.
He addressed migrants directly: “You are not the marginalized. You are at the center of the church’s heart.”