RABAT : POPE Francis on Saturday warned Catholics in Morocco against trying to convert others to boost their small numbers, during a rare visit by a pontiff to a North African country.

Speaking in Rabat's cathedral on his second day in the Moroccan capital. Francis insisted trying to convert people to one's own belief ''always leads to an impasse.''

''Please, no proselytism,'' he told an audience of around 400, who greeted the Pope's  arrival by ululating and applauding while hundreds more gathered outside the cathedral.

Christians are a tiny minority in Morocco, where 99 percent of the population is Muslims, with sub-Saharan Africans making up 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.

But Moroccans are automatically considered Muslims if they are born into the Jewish community, apostasy is socially frowned upon, and proselytizing is criminalized.

''I protect Moroccan Jews as well as Christians from other countries, who are living in Morocco,'' King Mohammad VI told crowds on Saturday, following the pontiff's arrival.

There are a few thousand Christians converts in Morocco, who since 2017 have called openly for the right to live ''without persecution'' and ''without discrimination''.

Francis is the first pontiff to visit the North African country since John Paul II in 1985 and the cathedral has been repainted for the occasion.

Waiting for the pope outside, a Nigerian man said the visit ''shows that living together is possible in Morocco.'' [AFP]


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