RABAT, Morocco (AP) — The Latest on Pope Francis’ trip to Morocco: (all times local):
Pope Francis is warning that political leaders who want to build walls to keep out migrants “end up prisoners of the walls that they build.”
Francis said he simply couldn’t understand in his head or his heart how a government could be so cruel as to put up concertina-wired fences to keep out migrants, or prevent migrant rescue boats from docking in ports.
Speaking en route home from Morocco, Francis said: “This is not the way to resolve the serious problem of immigration. I understand a government has a hot potato in its hands. But it has to resolve it in other ways, humanely.”
Francis said he wept after a Spanish journalist showed him a piece of concertina wire from the border at Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta.
Organizers say some 10,000 people are attending Pope Francis’ public Mass in Morocco, most of them foreigners representing about 60 countries.
The liturgy held in a sports arena in Morocco’s capital of Rabat on Sunday was the final event on the schedule for the pope’s two-day visit.
Nora Moso is originally from the Philippines and works in Casablanca as a nanny. She said she was grateful her employer gave her the day off so she could attend the Mass.
Diego Sanchez lives in Ceuta, the Spanish enclave in North Africa that is a destination of migrants who pour into Morocco hoping to find a way to Europe.
Sanchez says he thinks Catholicism is multiracial and universal. He said: “We have people from European origins, we have people from Arab origins, we have people from Africa sub-Saharan origins, so we are very happy.”
Moroccans who converted to Christianity are hoping Pope Francis’ visit will compel Moroccan authorities to become more tolerant of respecting religious freedom.
The number of Moroccan converts from Islam is estimated to between 2,000 and 6,000. They must practice Christianity privately, often holding house Masses and having to hide their religious affiliations for fear of prosecutions and arrests.
Many came to the kingdom’s capital, Rabat, to attend Francis’ Mass on Sunday.
Adam Rbati, a Moroccan Christian, told The Associated Press that he was pleased the pope made the visit and hoped it would lead to positive change.
Rbati said: “We are really happy. With this visit, we want to tell the pope and the Moroccan society that we are proud to be Christians. It might not change much, but it will certainly create the space for future positive change.”
He is attending the Mass with his wife, also a Moroccan Christian, and their newborn son.
Pope Francis is turning his attention to Morocco’s small Christian community during a two-day visit after already reaching out to the kingdom’s Muslim majority and calling for a greater welcome for its growing number of migrants.
On his second and final day in Morocco, Francis is visiting a church-run social services center, meeting with Catholic priests and other Christian representatives, and celebrating a Mass on Sunday.
Morocco has become the main departure point in Africa for migrants attempting to reach Europe after Italy essentially closed its borders to asylum-seekers leaving from Libya.
Francis thanked Morocco on Saturday for protecting migrants and warned that walls won’t stop people from trying to escape terrible conditions in their home countries.
He addressed migrants directly: “You are not the marginalized. You are at the center of the church’s heart.”
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