Pope urges Catholics in Morocco to dialogue, not proselytize

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This photo taken and handout by the Vatican press office, Vatican Media, on March 31, 2019 shows Pope Francis praying during a visit to the St Peter's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Rabat, during the pontiff's two-day visit to Morocco. (AFP/Vatican Media)
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This photo taken and handout by the Vatican press office, Vatican Media, on March 31, 2019 shows Pope Francis (R) addressing worshipers during a visit to the St Peter's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Rabat, during the pontiff's two-day visit to Morocco. (AFP/Vatican Media)
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This photo taken and handout by the Vatican press office, Vatican Media, on March 31, 2019 shows Pope Francis (R) blessing worshipers during a visit to the St Peter's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Rabat, during the pontiff's two-day visit to Morocco. (AFP/Vatican Media)
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Pope Francis meets children during a meeting with representatives of other Christian denominations at Saint Peter's Cathedral in Rabat, Morocco, March 31, 2019. (Vatican Media/Reuters)
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This photo taken and handout by the Vatican press office, Vatican Media, on March 31, 2019 shows Pope Francis blessing a child upon his arrival for a visit to the Rural Center for Social Services at Temara, south of Rabat, during the pontiff's two-day visit to Morocco. (AFP/Vatican Media)
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This photo taken and handout by the Vatican press office, Vatican Media, on March 31, 2019 shows Pope Francis (R) addressing worshipers during a visit to the St Peter's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Rabat, during the pontiff's two-day visit to Morocco. (AFP/Vatican Media)
Updated 31 March 2019
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Pope urges Catholics in Morocco to dialogue, not proselytize

  • Francis has stressed a message of Christian-Muslim fraternity during his first trip to Morocco
  • Proselytism is a prominent issue in religious discourse in the north African country, even though Christians, Muslims and Jews have coexisted peacefully here for centuries

RABAT: Pope Francis sought to encourage greater Christian-Muslim dialogue on Sunday, telling his flock that showing the country’s Muslim majority they are part of the same human family will help stamp out extremism.
On his second and final day in Morocco, Francis told Catholic priests and sisters that even though they are few in number, they shouldn’t seek to convert others but rather engage in dialogue and charity.
“In this way, you will unmask and lay bare every attempt to exploit differences and ignorance in order to sow fear, hatred and conflict,” he said. “For we know that fear and hatred, nurtured and manipulated, destabilize our communities and leave them spiritually defenseless.”
Francis has stressed a message of Christian-Muslim fraternity during his first trip to Morocco, a majority Muslim nation of 36 million. Proselytism is a prominent issue in religious discourse in the north African country, even though Christians, Muslims and Jews have coexisted peacefully here for centuries.

Pope Francis (R) blesses worshipers during a visit to the St Peter's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Rabat on March 31, 2019 . (AFP/Vatican Media)


After reaching out to the Sunni majority and Morocco’s ever growing community of migrants from countries in sub-Saharan Africa on Saturday, Francis turned his attention Sunday to Christian minorities. His aim was to highlight their constructive presence in Moroccan life.
Francis visited a social center run by Catholic religious sisters that serves a poor Muslim community south of the capital, Rabat, with medical, educational and vocational services. The Temara center operates a pre-school, treats burn victims, trains women in tailoring and provides meals for 150 children a day.
Catholic catechism isn’t taught at the pre-school.
“Their teachers are all Muslims and speak in Arabic and they prepare them on Muslim religion,” said sister Gloria Carrillero. “We did not come here with the purpose of doing proselytism. We came here just to help.”

Pope Francis meets children during a meeting with representatives of other Christian denominations at Saint Peter's Cathedral in Rabat, Morocco, March 31, 2019. (Vatican Media/Reuters)


Catholics represent less than 1 percent of Morocco’s population and most are foreign-born migrants. Morocco also has between 2,000 and 6,000 homegrown converts to Christianity who are obliged to practice their faith privately because Morocco prohibits Muslim conversions.
These Moroccan converts often celebrate Masses in their homes and hide their religious affiliations for fear of prosecution and arrest. Yet many flocked to Francis’ afternoon Mass in a Rabat sports stadium with the hope the pope’s visit would compel Moroccan authorities to be more tolerant of religious diversity.
“With this visit, we want to tell the pope and the Moroccan society that we are proud to be Christians,” said Moroccan Christian Adam Rbati, who was attending the Mass with his Christian wife and newborn son. “It might not change much, but it will certainly create the space for future positive change.”
Francis touched on the issue of religious freedom in his opening speech to King Mohammed VI on Saturday, urging Morocco to move beyond just freedom of worship to true respect for an individual’s faith.

Pope Francis blesses a child upon his arrival for a visit to the Rural Center for Social Services at Temara, south of Rabat, on March 31, 2019. (AFP/Vatican Media)


“That is why freedom of conscience and religious freedom — which is not limited to freedom of worship alone, but allows all to live in accordance with their religious convictions — are inseparably linked to human dignity,” he said.
In a speech to Catholic priests in the city cathedral Sunday, Francis drew applause when he told them they should not proselytize. The church grows, he said, when people are attracted to its message, witness its charity and engage in dialogue as part of a human family.
He called for prayer “in the name of this fraternity, torn apart by the policies of extremism and division, by systems of unrestrained profit or by hateful ideological tendencies, that manipulate the actions and the future of men and women.”


Dead body business attracts medics, drug dealers in Egypt

Egyptian Christians stand outside St. Markos Church in Minya, south of Cairo, Egypt, in this Jan. 6, 2015 file photo. (AP)
Updated 37 min 53 sec ago
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Dead body business attracts medics, drug dealers in Egypt

  • Some of the gravediggers remove tissues and grease from the bones by boiling them to remove their odor before selling them to students

CAIRO: The Egyptian Orthodox Church has issued a statement condemning the theft of the body of the Patriarch Gerges, son of priest Ibrahim Al-Basit, from his family’s burial place in the Minya governorate.
Last Saturday, the cemetery was opened and Al-Basit’s body was stolen. The crime of stealing the bodies of the dead has recently spread across Egypt, especially while the sanctity of the body remains preserved. It is also common for the remains to be collected two years after the burial.
Last October, a gang was arrested after stealing bodies from their graves. An investigation has revealed that the main defendant sold the bodies to medical students for practical learning.
Some of the gravediggers remove tissues and grease from the bones by boiling them to remove their odor before selling them to students.
The investigation found that the defendant had put a price on various limbs. The leg and the arm were priced at 3,000 Egyptian pounds ($180), the skull cost 5,000 pounds and the whole body was worth 20,000 pounds.
Ashraf Farahat, a legal expert and lawyer, said that Egyptian law demands up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of 100-500 pounds for criminals who violate the sanctity of graves.
Yasser Sayed Ahmed, a legal expert and lawyer, said he knew of many cases where cemetery guards and assistants help people access graves for superstitious reasons in exchange for large sums of money.
The majority of these cases are happening with the help of the guards of the tombs. They exhume graves at night to extract the bodies and separate the organs to sell bones and skulls. They often sell them to drug dealers by grinding and mixing some materials for sale at high prices.