Dear Brothers and Sisters: Last Saturday and Sunday I completed an Apostolic Journey to Morocco, and I thank His Majesty King Mohammed VI and the other authorities, for their warm welcome. Above all I thank the Lord for allowing me to take yet another step along the road of dialogue and encounter with our Muslim brothers and sisters, as a “Servant of hope” in today’s world. To serve hope in our day is to build bridges between cultures, and it was a joy and honour for me to be able to do this in the noble Kingdom of Morocco, meeting both its people and its political leaders. King Mohammed and I reiterated the essential role religions have in defending human dignity, promoting peace and justice, and in caring for creation, our common home. The question of migration was of particular importance and I was able to thank the Church in Morocco for its commitment towards migrants, and to encourage those who give generous service in realizing the words of Christ: “When I was a stranger you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35). After greeting priests, religious, consecrated men and women and the Ecumenical Council of Churches, thousands gathered for the Sunday Mass, where the parable of the prodigal son spoke to us of the beauty of God’s plan of forgiveness and reconciliation. Indeed, knowing our need of God’s mercy is vital, for only those who have been reborn and live in the Father’s embrace, can be servants of hope for our world.
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, China, the Philippines and the United States of America. May the Lenten journey bring us to Easter with hearts purified and renewed by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Upon you and your families I invoke joy and peace in Christ our Redeemer!