Mohammed VI and Pope Francis espoused tolerance and dialogue between “the three Abrahamic religions.”
By Sarah Goodman & Sebastian Bouknight
“We had a month of perfect sunshine, until today,” remarked a Moroccan woman under an umbrella awaiting King Mohammed VI and Pope Francis II on Saturday, March 30 at the Tour Hassan Mausoleum.
It was a testament to the power of faith that the weather did not deter the men and women who dutifully waited for hours in the rain for the chance to see the leaders, both of whom serve as political and religious heads of state.
During Pope Francis visit to Morocco, the crowd awaiting the motorcade stood with umbrellas, crouched under plastic tarps, shielded themselves with seat cushions, or stood stoically in the rain.
A convoy carrying the two monarchs made its way through the streets of Rabat to the Royal Palace; the flags of Morocco and the Vatican fluttered above the roadways and from the mausoleum flagpoles.
Security was tight, and guests filed through metal detectors before entering the walled enclave. Equally dutiful onlookers—many were Moroccans who arrived in the morning on a series of buses—packed the sidewalks or watched from awnings on the streets opposite.
Mohammed VI spoke first, espousing tolerance and dialogue between “the three Abrahamic religions.”
“The reason they exist is to open up to one another and to know one another, so as to do good to one another.”
Speaking at different points in Spanish, Arabic, English, and French, the King decried what he referred to as “the phenomena of radicalization.”
“What all terrorists have in common is not religion, but rather ignorance of religion.
Today, religion should no longer be an alibi for ignorant people, for ignorance or for intolerance.”
Pope Francis, addressing the expectant listeners, corroborated the King’s vision, denouncing extremism a negation of religion rather than an expression of it: “[extremism] is an offense against religion and against God himself.”
The mood felt expectant, even celebratory: choruses of ululating and choir hymns were both audible over from the people assembled.
Morocco is a Muslim-majority nation and many of the country’s Catholics are from other parts of Africa or the world.
Speaking to Morocco World News, a young Catholic woman from Guinea-Bissau shared that she was “very happy,” despite the cold and wet. Shuffling her feet to keep warm, she animatedly shared that she lives in Marrakech and made the trip for the purpose of seeing and hearing the pope speak.
This sentiment was echoed by another woman from Burundi, who said in an interview that it was an unexpected “pleasure” to hear the pope, an experience she had not expected to have during her two years in Morocco.
The pope later made a visit to the offices of Caritas, a Catholic charitable organization, to discuss the plight of migrants in Morocco.