By Courtney Grogan
Reflecting upon his recent apostolic journey to Morocco, Pope Francis said Wednesday that God desires a greater sense of fraternity among Catholics and Muslims as “brother children of Abraham.”
“Some may ask, ‘But why does the pope visit the Muslims and not only the Catholics?’” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Square April 3.
“With Muslims, we are descendants of the same father, Abraham,” he said. “What God wants is fraternity between us in a special way,” he added, noting that this was the motive behind his travels.
Pope Francis offered thanks to God that his trip to the Moroccan capital of Rabat March 30-31 was “another step on the path of dialogue and encounter with our Muslim brothers and sisters.”
“My pilgrimage has followed in the footsteps of two saints: Francis of Assisi and John Paul II,” he explained.
“Eight hundred years ago Francis brought the message of peace and fraternity to the Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil, and in 1985 Pope Wojtyła made his memorable visit to Morocco, having received at the Vatican – first among the Muslim heads of state – King Hassan II,” he said.
On his first day in Morocco, Pope Francis signed an “Appeal for Jerusalem,” with the Moroccan King Mohammed VI. The joint-declaration called for Jerusalem to be preserved as a “peaceful place of meeting for the three monotheistic religions,” the pope explained.
Religions have the essential role of “defending human dignity and promoting peace, justice and care for creation, that is our home common,” Francis said.
The pope also visited a training institute for imams and Muslim leaders in during his trip. The institute “promotes an Islam that is respectful of other religions and rejects violence and fundamentalism,” Francis said.
Morocco is more than 99% Sunni Muslim with Catholics amounting to less than 0.1% of the 35.74 million population, according to the State Department.
“Why does God allow so many religions?” Pope Francis asked at his general audience following the trip.“Scholastic theologians referred to the ‘permissive will’ of God. He willed to permit this reality: that there are many religions,” he said.
Pope Francis said that Catholics and Muslims must not be afraid of differences because God has allowed this, but “we must be frightened if we do not work in fraternity, to walk together in life.”
“Serving hope, in a time like ours, means first of all building bridges between civilizations,” he said.