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Pope Francis to visit Morocco in March

Pope Francis (Getty)

Francis will be only the second pope to travel to the country, following St John Paul II's historic visit in 1985

Pope Francis will make a two-day apostolic visit to Morocco next year, the Vatican announced.

Accepting an invitation from Moroccan King Mohammed VI, the Pope will visit the cities of Rabat and Casablanca on March 30-31, the Vatican said in a statement released on November 13. A detailed schedule for the trip will be released later.

News of a possible visit by Pope Francis became public earlier in the year when Vincenzo Abbinante, Italian honorary consul to the Kingdom of Morocco, said that government authorities were coordinating preparations with the Vatican.

Abbinante told Italian news agency Turiweb on May 24 that the Pope’s visit would highlight the importance of Morocco as “a center of excellence in intercultural and interreligious dialogue.”

Many people had expected the visit to take place earlier to coincide with the Dec. 10-11 Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, a document Pope Francis publicly pushed for and for which the Vatican lobbied heavily. A Vatican delegation will attend the conference.

Pope Francis will be the second pope to visit Morocco. St. John Paul II made a historic visit to the country in 1985, becoming the first pope to receive an official welcome in the predominantly Muslim country.

Speaking to thousands of young Muslims on August 19, 1985, St. John Paul said that Christians and Muslims are called “to change our old practices,” which have led to misunderstandings and wars, and “recognize with joy the religious values that we have in common.”

“We believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection,” St. John Paul said.