Pope Francis to visit Morocco, conduct mass

Casablanca (Morocco), Pope Francis will visit Morocco at the end of the month and conduct mass on March 31 in the presence of 10,000 people, many of them migrants, church officials said on Tuesday.

The mass would take place at a stadium, located on the outskirts of the Moroccan capital Rabat, Archbishops Cristobal Lopez of Rabat and Santiago Agrelo of Tanger said at a press conference at Our Lady of Lourdes Church here, reported Efe news.

Agrelo said the migrants would come to “hear (from the pope) a clear word about the situation of those who are in transit (between nations) and are legally defenseless.”

In June 2018, Moroccan authorities began a crackdown against migrants arriving as undocumented individuals in the North African country, many from sub-Saharan Africa.

There are around 30,000 followers of Catholicism in Morocco.

The Catholic church will transport the faithful from their cities of residence to the 50,000-seat Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium to attend the mass.

Francis will be the second pope to travel to the Muslim-majority country after the visit of Pope St. John Paul II in 1985 to Casablanca.

On his trip’s first day, March 30, Francis is expected to see a Caritas center, where Catholic aid workers help migrants with health, education and legal issues.

The pontiff would also visit on March 31 a social service centre, run by the Daughters of Charity, as well as a centre for burn-injury patients.

He will be welcomed by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI at the Rabat airport.

Last month, Francis led an open-air mass in the United Arab of Emirates, as part of his historic trip as the first head of the Catholic Church to visit the Arabian Peninsula.

Hundreds of thousands attended the mass at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.