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The Pope in Morocco: “Continue to be an example of humanity for migrants and refugees”

Four speeches, an unplanned joint appeal for Jerusalem, the “first time” of a Pope in a Muslim formation Institute. These were the highlights of Francis’ Apostolic visit to Morocco, that can be described as the “second half” of the visit to the United Arab Emirates two months ago, eight-hundred years since the meeting between Saint Francis and the Sultan. Spotlight on interreligious dialogue, in particular with Muslim brothers and migrants. Homage and encouragement to the small flock of Catholics, representing less than 1% of the overall population.

(Foto Vatican Media/SIR)

Pope Francis and King Mohammed VI unexpectedly signed a  joint appeal for Jerusalem “as the common patrimony of humanity”, and especially the followers of the three monotheistic religions, immediately after entering the Institute of Formation for Imams, without taking the floor but listening to the students’ contributions. Bergoglio is the first Pope ever to make this gesture, and these two snapshots encompass the significance of his 28th international journey that can be described as “the second half” of the visit to the United Arab Emirates undertaken two months ago with the historic signing  of the Document on Human Fraternity, a recurring theme in the four speeches delivered in Morocco, focused on interreligious dialogue and migrations. Dialogue “without calculations and limitations,” is the secret of true fraternity, the Pope said during the meeting with members of the clergy, on the second day of the visit, dedicated to 30 thousand Catholic faithful: an absolute minority representing less than 1% of the overall population, whom he exhorted – during the Holy Mass with the greatest participation in the history of Morocco, attended by 10 thousand people from 60 world Countries – to continue to nurture a culture of mercy.

 

“the courage to encounter one another and extend a hand of friendship is a pathway of peace and harmony for humanity, whereas extremism and hatred cause division and destruction.”

Eight hundred years after the historic meeting between Saint Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil, the Pope’s words in his first speech , on the Esplanade of the Hassan Tower, unusually wet because of the rain, resound as a course of action for our present times. From Morocco, “a natural bridge between Africa and Europe,” Francis asks “to share in the building a society that is open, fraternal and respectful of differences”, so as to “overcome tensions and misunderstandings, clichés and stereotypes that generate fear and opposition.”

“It is essential that fanaticism and extremism be countered by solidarity on the part of all believers”, the Pope said, mentioning as a virtuous example of formation the Mohammed VI Institute for Imams, Morchidines and Morchidates, created by the present King to counter hatred, violence and terrorism. A few minutes later Francis became the first Pope to enter the Institute.

“There is a constant need to progress beyond mere tolerance to respect and esteem for others”,

is Francis’ proposal: the keyword of interreligious dialogue is fraternity, the Pope repeats it echoing the keyword of his visit to the United Arab Emirates, mentioning the international Conference on the rights of religious minorities in the Islamic world, held in Marrakech in January 2016. Another “prophetic sign” is “the creation in 2012 of the Al Mowafaqa Ecumenical Institute in Rabat, an initiative of Catholics and other Christian denominations. Dialogue is also the care for our common home, Francis underlines referring to the International Conference on Climate Change, COP 22, with the umpteenth appeal to

“reverse the trend of global warming and to achieve the goal of eliminating poverty”

The second part of the speech is entirely dedicated to migration, starting with the results achieved here in Morocco by the Intergovernmental Conference on Global Compact “for safe, orderly and regular migration”, with the adoption of a document “intended to serve as a point of reference for the entire international community”, the Pope said.

“I trust that Morocco will continue to be an example of humanity for migrants and refugees”, is his appeal.

The migration crisis “will never be resolved by raising barriers, fomenting fear of others.”

The Pope continued addressing the migration crisis “a wound that cries out to heaven” – in the meeting with migrants hosted at the Caritas centre in Rabat “We do not want our response to be one of indifference and silence”, Francis declared. “This is all the more the case today, when we witness many millions of refugees and other forced migrants seeking international protection, to say nothing of the victims of human trafficking and the new forms of enslavement being perpetrated by criminal organizations.”

“No one can be indifferent to this painful situation”, we must let ourselves “be touched and moved by those who knock at our door.”

The four verbs of Evangelii gaudium: to welcome, to protect, to promote, to integrate, represent the frame of reference for all. To welcome is to expand regular migration channels, in order to avoid presenting new opportunities to those “merchants of human flesh.” “Forms of collective expulsion” are “unacceptable”, while “special legalization strategies, especially in the case of families and minors, should be encouraged. Protection should be ensured especially along migration routes, which sadly “are often theatres of violence, exploitation and abuse of all kinds.” Promoting means forestalling all forms of discrimination and xenophobia. The right to migrate must be guaranteed, “but also the right not to be forced to emigrate, that is, the right to enjoy in their native land suitable conditions for a dignified life.” To integrate means building “an open and intercultural society”.

“Only if we can raise our eyes to heaven each day and say “Our Father”, will we be able to be part of a process that can make us see things clearly and risk living no longer as enemies but as brothers and sisters,”  

the Pope reiterated the theme of fraternity during the closing Mass at the “Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium”.

“You are to be to be servants, promoters and defenders of human fraternity here in Morocco”,

was the Pope’s invitation to the small flock of Catholics in his first speech. Here “in this land which God loves, may human fraternity may grow ever stronger”, the Pope said from the Cathedral of Rabat, where he blessed the dean of the women religious, Sister Ersilia, 97, and recited the Angelus prayer surrounded by a group of children. “The past and the future”, Francis added, speaking impromptu.

 

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