By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis’ trip to Morocco March 30-31 will include a visit to a school training an international group of Muslim prayer leaders and preachers, including women.
He also will visit to a Caritas center assisting migrants, many of whom ended up in the North African country with hopes of eventually making it to Europe.
Returning to Rome from the United Arab Emirates Feb. 5, Pope Francis told journalists he had hoped to go to Marrakech, Morocco, in December for the signing of the U.N. Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, but protocol dictated that he make a full visit to the country and there was not time in December.
The trip in March will include a full slate of formal events, including a meeting with King Mohammed VI and a visit to the mausoleum of King Mohammed V, who negotiated the country’s independence from France and ruled until his death in 1961.
The visit to Morocco, where more than 99 percent of the population is Muslim, will give Pope Francis an opportunity to continue the reflections on Christian-Muslim relations he began in Abu Dhabi in February. As he did in the United Arab Emirates, he is expected to highlight 2019 as the 800th anniversary of the encounter of St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil of Egypt.
When the Vatican first announced the trip in November, it said the pope would visit both Rabat, the capital, and Casablanca. But the Vatican said Feb. 9 it had accepted “the proposal by Moroccan authorities to limit the trip to the city of Rabat to facilitate the visit of the Holy Father.”
The Vatican released the following schedule Feb. 9, leaving out the exact times for many events. Times listed are local, with Eastern Daylight Time in parentheses. (Rome goes on daylight time early March 31; Morocco does not change times.)
Saturday, March 30 (Rome, Rabat)
— 10:45 a.m. (5:45 a.m.) Departure from Rome’s Fiumicino airport for Rabat.
— 2 p.m. (9 a.m.) Arrival at Rabat-Sale airport.
— Welcoming ceremony on the square outside the Royal Palace.
— Courtesy visit with King Mohammed VI in the Royal Palace.
— Meeting with the Moroccan people, government authorities, civic leaders and the diplomatic corps at the esplanade of the Hassan Mosque. Speech by pope.
— Visit to the Mausoleum of King Mohammed V.
— Visit to the Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams, Morchidines and Morchidates (male and female preachers). Greeting by pope.
— Meeting with migrants at the diocesan Caritas center. Greeting by pope.
Sunday, March 31 (Rabat-Rome)
— Visit to the Rural Center for Social Services at Temara, just south of Rabat.
— Meeting with priests, religious men and women and the ecumenical Council of Churches in the Rabat cathedral. Speech by pope.
— Recitation of the Angelus prayer.
— Lunch with the papal entourage.
— Celebration of Mass. Homily by pope.
— Farewell ceremony at the Rabat-Sale airport.
— 5:15 p.m. (12:15 p.m.) Departure for Rome.
— 9:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m.) Arrival at Rome’s Ciampino airport.