Bishop: ‘The Catholic Church does exist in Morocco!’
CATHOLICS IN MOROCO account for less than one percent of the population of 37 million. But the Church in Morocco, despite its small size, plays an important role in caring for disadvantaged in society and offers support to young migrants crossing into the country from sub-Saharan Africa on their hoped-for way to Europe. March 30-31, 2019, Pope Francis will visit the country. In this interview, Bishop Bishop Cristóbal López of Rabat talks about the Church’s role in the Morocco.
“The Catholic Church does exist in Morocco,” the bishop, a Salesian of Don Bosco, proclaims, adding: “It is a vibrant and young Church blessed with mercy and with a strong desire to bear witness.” The bishop continues: “More young than old people come to our churches, more men than women, more black than white people.”
The members of the Church in Morocco are mostly foreigners, faithful from more than 100 different countries. They generally work in companies that operate subsidiaries in Morocco. In addition, many of them come from countries south of the Sahara, such as the Congo, Senegal or the Ivory Coast. They move to Morocco to pursue their studies and find a “feeling of security” in the local Church. The missionaries who work in the country hail from more than 40 different countries.
The Moroccan Church and the charities it works with help those who are weakest, irrespective of their religious or ethnic background. Primarily, they are active within Moroccan society and for the immigrants coming from countries south of the Sahara, who are trying to reach Europe or remain in North Africa. “The Church takes in and cares for those in need, that is, it is a Samaritan Church,” the bishop says.
Through its Caritas organization, Morocco takes care of thousands of migrants who cross the Sahara and then, after having completed this difficult crossing, “remain stuck” in the country, without being able to continue on to Europe. “These people need care and a sympathetic ear. Most of them are sick when they arrive and many of the women are pregnant,” says the bishops; “the Church takes them in. It protects, promotes and integrates them, just as Pope Francis has asked us to do. The work of the Church in Morocco is so important that even the Muslim authorities appreciate its efforts.”
Bishop López explained that economic reasons are the key impetus for the majority of the young migrants. They are fleeing poverty and unemployment, but many of them are also fleeing war, hostilities, persecution or natural disasters. According to the bishop of Rabat, the migration problem in Africa will be impossible to solve as long as “30% of the food produced continues to be thrown out in Europe,” and people continue to live “in excess and grandeur” while at the same time expecting those “who live in wretched circumstances to passively accept their fate.”
“It is certainly not Christian and it can even be called inhumane that Europe protects its borders so that it does not have to share what belongs to all and what Europe has appropriated,” the bishop charges. He continues: “Instead of providing aid, we should pay for the raw materials that we exploit. We should make sure that the multinational corporations pay the taxes that they owe.” He insists that Africa cannot be helped with “crumbs, but with justice and development plans. We are nothing without love, we are even less without justice.”
According to its constitution, the Kingdom of Morocco is a Muslim state. Article 3 reads: “Islam is the religion of the state, which guarantees to all the free exercise of beliefs.” However, the constitution prohibits political parties, parliamentarians or constitutional amendments to infringe upon Islam. The European Parliament has acknowledged that religious freedom is constitutionally enshrined in Morocco, but adds that “Christians and especially Muslims who converted to Christianity face numerous forms of discrimination and are not allowed to set foot in a church.” Under the Moroccan Penal Code, proselytism by non-Muslims, that is to “shake the faith” of the Muslim population, is illegal. The distribution of non-Islamic religious materials is also restricted.