By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis on Saturday encouraged cooperation in building a world of greater solidarity, marked by honest, courageous and indispensable efforts in order to promote a dialogue that is respectful of the richness and distinctiveness of each people and every individual.
The Pope’s exhortation came during his 2-day weekend visit to Morocco. The Pope arrived in the Rabat’s international airport in the afternoon, where he was received by King Mohammed VI. Later, he was accorded a state welcome at the Tour Hassan or the Hassan Tower, where he addressed the people, the authorities, representatives of the civil society and the diplomatic corps.
In order to build a “society that is open, fraternal and respectful of differences,” the Pope said, “it is vital to foster the culture of dialogue and adhere to it unfailingly, to adopt mutual cooperation as our code of conduct and reciprocal understanding as our method and standard”.
The Argentine Pope noted that his visit was taking place on the 800th anniversary of the historic encounter between Saint Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil in Egypt 1219. He said that the “prophetic event shows that the courage to encounter one another and extend a hand of friendship is a pathway of peace and harmony for humanity, whereas extremism and hatred cause division and destruction.
Dialogue to overcome extremism
His Moroccan visit, he said, is an opportunity to advance interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding among the followers of Christianity and Islam. All need to help each other overcome tensions and misunderstandings, clichés and stereotypes that generate fear and opposition. Likewise, it is essential that fanaticism and extremism be countered by solidarity on the part of all believers.
In this regard, the Holy father expressed appreciation for the Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams, Morchidines and
Religion and authentic dialogue
The Pope pointed out that for authentic dialogue, religion needs to build bridges between people. While respecting our differences, he explained, faith in God leads us to acknowledge the eminent dignity of each human being, as well as his or her inalienable rights. Therefore, freedom of conscience and religion are inseparably linked to human dignity.
For this to happen, all need to go beyond mere tolerance to respect and esteem for others, accept the distinctive religious beliefs of others and enrich one another through diversity. Thus, creating bridges between people through inter-religious dialogue calls for a spirit of mutual regard, friendship and fraternity.
In this regard, the Pope expressed appreciation for the International Conference on the rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries, held in Morocco in 2016, that condemned the exploitation of religion as a means of discriminating against or attacking others.
He also commended the creation in 2012 of the Al Mowafaqa Ecumenical Institute in Rabat, that seeks to help promote ecumenism, as well as dialogue with culture and with Islam.
He said all these are ways to halt the misuse of religion to incite hatred, violence, extremism and blind fanaticism, and the invocation of the name of God to justify acts of murder, exile, terrorism and oppression.
Our common home
The Pope further explained that genuine dialogue also includes the care of our common. The International Conference on Climate Change, COP 22, held in Morocco, underscored that authentic solidarity between nations and peoples is needed to protect this planet and to contribute to a true “ecological conversion” for the sake of integral human development. A patient, judicious, candid and sincere dialogue can help reverse the trend of global warming and achieve the goal of eliminating poverty, he said.
The 82-year old Pontiff also drew attention to the grave crisis of migration. He said it represents an urgent call to concrete actions aimed at eliminating the causes that force many people to leave country and family behind, often only to find themselves marginalized and rejected.
Despite the Intergovernmental Conference on the Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration held in Morocco in December, he said, much remains to be done, especially in passing from commitments to concrete actions. But what is most needed is a change of attitude towards migrants that
He hoped that Morocco will continue to be a model of humanity for migrants and refugees, offering them generous welcome and protection, a better life and a dignified integration into society.
He warned that the issue of migration will never be resolved by raising barriers, fomenting fear of others or denying assistance to those who legitimately aspire to a better life for themselves and their families.
Christians of Morocco
Speaking on behalf the Christians of Morocco, the Holy Father, pledged their commitment in building a fraternal and prosperous nation, out of concern for the common good. He particularly mentioned the Catholic Church’s engagement in social services and in the field of education, especially through its schools.
Later on Saturday the Pope was scheduled to pay a courtesy visit to the king, meet Muslim leaders and visit a centre for migrants run by Caritas.
Sunday morning, he is scheduled to visit a rural centre run by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, after which he is to hold a meeting with the clergy, religious and representatives of the Ecumenical Council of Churches at Rabat cathedral.