Pope Francis’ trip to Morocco (March 30th-31st) will include a visit to a school training an international group of Muslim prayer leaders and preachers, including women.
He also will visit to a Caritas centre assisting migrants, many of whom ended up in the North African country with hopes of eventually making it to Europe.
Returning to Rome from the United Arab Emirates last week, Pope Francis told journalists he had hoped to go to Marrakech, Morocco, in December for the signing of the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, but protocol dictated that he make a full visit to the country and there was not time in December.
The trip in March will include a full slate of formal events, including a meeting with King Mohammed VI and a visit to the mausoleum of King Mohammed V, who negotiated the country’s independence from France and ruled until his death in 1961.
The visit to Morocco, where more than 99 per cent of the population is Muslim, will give Pope Francis an opportunity to continue the reflections on Christian-Muslim relations he began in Abu Dhabi in February. As he did in the United Arab Emirates, he is expected to highlight 2019 as the 800th anniversary of the encounter of St Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil of Egypt.
When the Vatican first announced the trip in November, it said the pope would visit both Rabat, the capital, and Casablanca. But the Vatican said at the weekend it had accepted “the proposal by Moroccan authorities to limit the trip to the city of Rabat to facilitate the visit of the Holy Father.”