Pope rounds off Morocco visit with mass for thousands

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(Rabat) – Pope Francis called for tolerance and peace at a mass for thousands of Catholics during a rare visit by a pontiff to Morocco, after warning the faithful there against trying to convert others.

Ten thousand worshippers, many migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, packed a sports complex in Rabat as the pope rounded off his two-day stay in the Muslim North African state.

“Often we are tempted to believe that hatred and revenge are legitimate ways of ensuring quick and effective justice,” the 82-year-old pontiff told those gathered.

“Yet experience tells us that hatred, division and revenge succeed only in killing our peoples´ soul, poisoning our children´s hopes, and destroying and sweeping away everything we cherish.”

Ahead of the mass the pope insisted to an audience of around 400 at Rabat´s cathedral that trying to convert people to one´s own belief “always leads to an impasse”.

“Please, no proselytism!” he said.

Christians are a tiny minority in Morocco where 99 percent of the population is Muslim, with sub-Saharan Africans making up a large part of the country´s 30,000-strong Catholic community.

Islam is the state religion and authorities are keen to stress the country´s “religious tolerance” which allows Christians and Jews to worship freely.