King Mohammed VI received the Archbishop of Rabat during a royal audience in honor of foreign ambassadors to Morocco.
Rabat – King Mohammed VI received Cardinal Cristobal Lopez Romero, Archbishop of Rabat, at the capital’s Royal Palace.
The Royal audience is a reflection of Morocco’s reputation for religious freedom and coexistence, says a statement from the Royal Office.
During the reception on January 22, Lopez Romero thanked King Mohammed for sending him, as part of a delegation, to the Vatican City in October 2019.
Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, elevated the Archbishop of Rabat to the rank of Cardinal during the visit.
Morocco’s official visit to the Vatican
Lopez Romero was part of a Moroccan delegation that attended the October 2019 “consistory” ceremony at the Vatican, a meeting between cardinals and bishops from across the world.
Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita, led the delegation and delivered a message from King Mohammed VI to Pope Francis.
The King said Lopez Romero’s installation as cardinal in Morocco proves the convergence of the Moroccan Monarch and the Pope in terms of values, such as coexistence, compassion, co-knowledge, and helping the most deprived.
Pope Francis appointed Spanish national Lopez Romero in December 2018. He then became the Archbishop of Rabat in March 2018, succeeding the retiring Archbishop Vincent Landel.
Born in 1952, Lopez Romero became a priest in 1979 in Barcelona. The archbishop served in Paraguay from 1984 to 2002 before starting his mission in Morocco in 2003.
The Archbishop of Rabat’s elevation to Cardinal came only a few months after the Pope’s visit to Morocco.
On March 30-31, 2019, the Pope visited Morocco for the first time. During his visit, he met with the King, senior Moroccan officials, and Christian migrants living in Morocco.
The Head of the Catholic Church enjoyed his visit to Morocco, delivering statements to express gratitude for the warm welcome he received.
“Last Saturday and Sunday, [March 30-31], I completed an Apostolic Journey to Morocco, and I thank His Majesty King Mohammed VI and the other authorities, for their warm welcome,” said the Pope in a statement.
Christianity in Morocco
While there are no official statistics about the number of Christians living in Morocco, the majority of churchgoers are either European expatriates, mostly from France and Spain, or Sub Saharan migrants who came to Morocco to study.
The number of Moroccan Christians, either born Christian or converted from Islam, is hard to define.
While Article 3 of the Moroccan constitution “guarantees to all the free exercise of beliefs,” Morocco’s penal code prohibits conversion to other religions than Islam.
Most public conversions from Islam to Christianity in Morocco occurred during the colonial period when laws against conversion did not exist.
Evangelism is also illegal in Morocco. According to Article 220 of Morocco’s penal code, “anyone who employs incitements to shake the faith of a Muslim or to convert him to another religion” incurs a sentence of three to six months in prison and a fine of MAD 200 to MAD 500.