Pope Francis Warns Catholics in Morocco Not to Convert Muslims to Christianity
Head of Catholic Church issues warning to his Moroccan followers against proselytism
Pope Francis warned Catholics in Morocco not to attempt to convert Muslims to Christianity, as he addressed a large crowd of his Moroccan flock on Sunday.
The head of the Catholic Church issued the warning during an address at St. Peter's Cathedral in Rabat, Morocco before roughly 400 Christian followers.
During the speech, in which the pope also discussed the rights of migrants and promoted open borders, the pope urged Christians to unite with Muslims, before he warned: "Please, no proselytism!"
Trying to convert people to Christianity "always leads to an impasse," said the head of the 1.3 billion-member church, as reported by Agence France-Presse.
In Morocco, there are currently around 30,000 Catholics and 10,000 Protestants in Morocco and they make up less than 1% of the population there, where the majority of citizens follow Sunni Islam.
Following his official visit to the Islamic North African state, Pope Francis blasted nationalism and likened populists to Hitler as he pushed for open borders.
The head of the Catholic church blasted the rise of populism in Western countries, claiming the movement gains followers by stoking fear in the same way as the Nazis did in the 1930s.
In a joint declaration on Sunday, Pope Francis and Morocco's King Mohammed VI signed the "Jerusalem Pact" which they described as a "symbol of peaceful coexistence" for Christians, Jews, and Muslims, according to DW.
Jerusalem was "common patrimony of humanity and especially the followers of three monotheistic religions," an official statement read.
"The specific multi-religious character, the spiritual dimension and the particular cultural identity of Jerusalem … must be protected and promoted," the statement added.
The spiritual leader of the world's Catholics was in Morocco to promote interreligious dialogue.
It was the first visit to Morocco by a pope in 34 years.
King Mohammed VI is head of a committee created by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to protect and promote Jerusalem's religious, cultural and architectural heritage.
Last year, US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, causing anger across the Muslim world, especially from Palestinians that see the city as the capital of their future state.
"The Church grows not through proselytism but by attraction,” Francis said, according to Reuters.
“This means, dear friends, that our mission as baptized persons, priests and consecrated men and women, is not really determined by the number or size of spaces that we occupy, but rather by our capacity to generate change and to awaken wonder and compassion."
Pope Francis has used his two-day trip to push inter-faith dialogue with Islamic leaders.
He has also backed Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s efforts to spread a form of Islam that promotes inter-religious dialogue and rejects violence in God’s name.
"[T]he Pope also stressed the need for inter-religious dialogue, saying people should resist 'classifying ourselves according to different moral, social, ethnic or religious criteria,'" reported Reuters.
Following his official visit to the Islamic North African state of Morocco, #PopeFrancis blasted #nationalism and likened #populists to Hitler as he pushed for open borders.— Neon Nettle (@NeonNettle) April 2, 2019
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The U.S. State Department reports, "According to [Morocco's] constitution, the country is a Muslim state, with full sovereignty, and Islam is the religion of the state. ...
"The law penalizes anyone who 'employs enticements to undermine the faith' or convert a Muslim to another faith and provides punishments of six months to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of 200 to 500 dirhams ($21 to $53).
"It also provides the right to a court trial for anyone accused of such an offense."
"Voluntary conversion is not a crime under the law," according to the State Department.
"Sunni Muslims and Jews are the only religious groups recognized in the constitution as native to the country; other faiths are viewed as foreign" in Morrocco, reported the State Department.
"Many foreign-resident Christian churches are registered as associations. Registered foreign-resident churches include the Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Protestant, and Anglican Churches, which maintain different forms of official status."