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Pope in Morocco warns Catholics off converting others

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Pope Francis and King Mohammed VI
During his visit to Morocco, Pope Francis on Sunday warned Catholics in the country against trying to convert others to boost their small numbers.

On his second day in the Moroccan capital Rabat, he 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.

In Morocco, Christians are a tiny minority, whereby 99 % of the population is Muslim, with sub-Saharan Africans making up a large part of the country's 30,000-strong Catholic community.

The state religion of the country is Islam, and the authorities are keen to stress the country's religious tolerance, which allows Christians and Jews to worship freely.

However, Moroccans are automatically considered Muslim, if they are not born into the Jewish community, apostasy is socially frowned upon, and proselytising is criminalised.

"I protect Moroccan Jews as well as Christians from other countries, who are living in Morocco," King Mohammed VI told crowds on Saturday March 30th, following the pontiff's arrival.

Thus far, a few thousand Christian converts in Morocco exist, who since 2017 have called openly for the right to live "without persecution" and "without discrimination."

A Nigerian man said as he waited for the pope outside, the visit "shows that living together is possible in Morocco."

But "there are things to improve, notably the question of migrants and that of Moroccan Christians," said 36-year-old Antoine, who works for an association to defend migrant rights.
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