The pontiff’s second and final day in the Kingdom of Morocco included a visit to a social services center, a speech at a cathedral, and a historic public mass at a sports complex.
Rabat – Arlene Urmunita spent the first half of her Sunday morning on the phone coordinating a family reunion. She was indicating to apparently lost relatives the right place to meet before the historic papal mass in Rabat.
“I’m at the main entrance, where are you?” Urmunita told a relative on phone.
As Urmunita spoke, a flurry of people crowded around her, hustling to get inside the venue of the mass. On an occasion such as what Rabat was witnessing on Sunday, March 31, getting a seat with panoramic view of the mass — and of course a better view of the pope — came with grueling efforts. Urmunita’s vicinity was bustling with people, speaking flusteredly into her phone her voice was barely audible.
“No, that’s not the right place. That’s the pope’s entrance,” she told her relatives.
Urmunita, 41, is a practicing Catholic working in Rabat as a nanny. She is originally from the Philippines. Every Sunday, Urminita attends mass Rabat’s St. Peter’s Cathedral with four of her family members.
For the papal mass, the Rabat cathedral distributed free tickets to all its members. Urmunita and her four family members received a ticket each. The orange caption on each ticket, “for the faithful,” came with a combined sense of joy and achievement.
It meant the family’s routine, attending every Sunday mass, was being rewarded with the most gratifying trophy many Roman Catholic would pray for: Celebrating mass in the “holy presence” of the pope, also known as the “the father of all believers.”
Read Also: Full Text of Pope Francis’ Speech in Morocco
The pope’s second and final day began in the city of Temara, southwest of Rabat, where he visited the Rural Center for Social Services. He then proceeded to St. Peter’s Cathedral to give a speech to the dozens of religious leaders and supporters that filled the pews.
During his speech, Pope Francis saluted the freedom of religious practice that Christians enjoy in Morocco. That Christians could freely attend to their religious duty in Morocco, an overwhelmingly Muslim country, spoke volumes about the possibility of peaceful interfaith relations, the pope said.
The Christian community in Morocco is approximately 2,000 to 5,000 people. It is estimated that 99 percent of Morocco’s population of 34 million is Muslim.
In his speeches during his two-day stay in Morocco, he indefatigably spoke about strengthening dialogue, cooperation, and friendship between Muslims and Christians.
But the pontiff also noted the need for Morocco’s Christians to prioritize spiritual and social work over proselytizing, which is illegal in Morocco.
“Jesus did not choose and send us forth to become more numerous. He called us to a mission,” Pope Francis said. That mission, he elaborated, is not determined by “the number or size of spaces that we occupy, by rather by our capacity to generate change and awaken wonder and compassion.”
Following his speech, Pope Francis had lunch with priests and the Council of Churches before departing to hold mass for Urmunita and the thousands that had already began to hustle their way into the Prince Moulay Abdellah Sports Complex.
“It was so important to us to see the pope and we are so blessed to be here,” Urmunita told Morocco World News. “This visit will change the attitude of the people. Seeing the king and the pope meet will strengthen the friendship between Muslims and Christians in Morocco.”
The mass was the final — and culminating — event of Pope Francis’s two-day trip to Morocco. The pope’s Moroccan stay placed an emphatic focus on interfaith dialogue and issues of migration.
On the first day of his visit, Pope Francis visited organizations and institutions working on those issues, the Mohammed VI center for Islamic studies and the Caritas migration center.
After saying mass, the pope drove to the Rabat-Sale Airport for his farewell ceremony before flying back to Rome onboard a Royal Air Maroc flight.
“We are all sad to see the pope leave, we will miss him very much here in Morocco,” Urmunita said.
Pope Francis’s next international visit will be to Bulgaria and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia from May 5-7.