By John Waters
With Pope Francis’ visit to Morocco now only a month away, the Archbishop of Rabat has spoken about the itinerary for the Pope’s trip as well as his own personal hopes for the visit. Archbishop Cristobal Lopez has been Archbishop of Rabat, the capital city, since 2018. Although born in Spain, Archbishop Lòpez has been ministering in Morocco since 2003. There are about 50,000 Catholics in Morocco, mostly European expatriates.
A visit full of meaning
Archbishop Lopez says that the visit of Pope Francis will be a great event for the church but also “a very demanding two day visit full of meaningful meetings.” Pope Francis is due to visit both Rabat and Casablanca. The itinerary for the visit includes a visit to a migrant centre, run by the charity Caritas, and a social centre run by the Daughters of Charity. There will also be a visit to the Mohammed VI institute, which oversees the training and formation of Imans, to serve the local Muslim community. The Pope is also expected to meet with King Mohamed VI as well as the country’s Bishops.
Although the catholic population in Morocco is small, Archbishop Lopez says that “The Pope will come to Morocco as a universal pastor, father of all Catholic Christians, a person of good will who wants to meet everyone. And for everyone, he presents himself as a servant of hope. He comes to fill us with hope, to give us strength, to recover from discouragement, to instill enthusiasm, he comes to announce the Gospel to us.”
Security arrangements for the visit will be strict, but Archbishop Lopez remains confident that, with patience, everyone who waits to see the Pope will find the waiting to be worthwhile. He is particularly keen that the Pope’s celebration of Mass in Morocco be the summit of visit, reflecting the way in which the Eucharist is the source and summit of Catholic life.
Archbishop Lopez also spoke about his personal hopes for the visit. “For our part we must welcome him as a human being, like us, an instrument that signals Christ to us, the voice that announces his message, the gospel. Our concern and our desire should not be to shake hands or take a selfie with him. Attention must be paid by listening to his words, receiving his message, witnessed by words and gestures. ‘When a wise man signals the sun with his finger, the idiot looks at his finger’ says a proverb. The Pope is not the sun, he is the finger. Let us look at the sun, which is Christ and not the finger.”
The Pope will visit Morocco from March 30-31st.