Pope Francis told the people of Morocco he will visit them “as a pilgrim of peace and of fraternity” when he travels to the north African nation on Saturday.
The pope began his video-message to the Moroccans by wishing them peace in Arabic: “As-Salamu Alaikum!”, before going on to underscore key themes of his visit.
Thanking God, Moroccan King Mohammed VI, and the Moroccan authorities for making the trip possible, Francis told his hearers: “As Christians and Muslims we believe in God the Creator and Merciful One, who has created men and women and placed them on the earth so that they might live together as brothers and sisters, respecting each other’s diversity and helping each other in their need.”
“He has entrusted the earth – our common home – to them, to care for it responsibly and to preserve it for future generations,” the pontiff added.
According to a program released by the Vatican, during his two-day visit the pope will meet with King Mohammed VI, visit the institute for the training of imams, meet with migrants, and visit a local rural center of social services, among other things.
“It will be a joy for me to share these firm convictions with you directly at our meeting in Rabat,” the pope said in Thursday’s message. “This journey also offers me the invaluable occasion to visit the Christian community in Morocco and to encourage its progress.”
“I will meet migrants too, who represent an appeal to build together a more just and fraternal world,” he added.
According to the bishops of Rabat and Tangier, who are helping to organize the pope’s visit, the pontiff intends to focus on the situation of migrants when he visits the country.
More than 50 percent of the 27,000 Catholics living in Morocco are immigrants, with many of them coming from Sub-Saharan Africa looking for work or educational opportunities. Assisted by local parishes, many of these hope to be able to see the pope during his trip.
“Dear Moroccan friends,” Francis concludes, “I already express my heartfelt thanks for your welcome, and above all for your prayers; and I assure you of my own prayers for you and for your dear country.”
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