Pope Francis has taken off in his Alitalia flight with his papal entourage and journalists for his two-day visit to Morocco, March 30-31.
ZENIT’s Anita Bourdin, Director of the French Edition, is on the papal flight.
The Pontiff’s arrival in the nation’s capital of Rabat is expected at about 2 p.m. local time. The visit marks Francis’ 28th Apostolic Visit abroad and his 42nd country visited.
Before leaving for the airport, Francis met a group of Moroccan migrants who are hosted in Italy, thanks to the Community of Sant’Egidio, at his residence Casa Santa Marta. They included two families, each with two children, two young women and a young man. The group was accompanied by the Papal Almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski.
Pope Francis’ trip follows the visit of his predecessor Saint John Paul II to the country in 1985. In his video message to Moroccans ahead of the trip, Francis has noted, like the Polish Pontiff, he comes as a “pilgrim of peace and fraternity.”
Morocco is a majority-Muslim nation, with Muslims making up about 99 percent of the population, and its Catholic community making up less than .1 percent.
Similar to his Apostolic Visit Feb. 3-5 United Arab Emirates, where ZENIT English Edition Senior Vatican Correspondent was on the papal flight, the first day of the trip will be focused on interreligious dialogue and the second to the local Catholic community.
The Holy Father is expected to focus on interreligious, and even some ecumenical, dialogue, migration, and encouraging the country’s small Catholic flock.
The Vatican on February 26, 2019, released the updated program below for the trip:
|Saturday 30 March 2019ROME-RABAT|
|10.45||Departure by air from Rome-Fiumicino Airport for Rabat|
|14.00||Arrival at Rabat-Salé International Airport|
|14.30||WELCOME CEREMONY in the square in front of the Royal Palace|
|14.50||COURTESY VISIT TO KING MOHAMMED VI in the Royal Palace|
|15.30||MEETING with the MOROCCAN PEOPLE, the AUTHORITIES, with CIVIL SOCIETY and with the DIPLOMATIC CORPS on the Esplanade of the Mosquée Hassan II||Address of the Holy Father|
|16.30||VISIT TO THE MAUSOLEUM OF MOHAMMED V|
|17.00||VISIT TO THE MOHAMMED VI INSTITUTE FOR THE TRAINING OF IMAMS, MORCHIDINES AND MORCHIDATES||Greeting of the Holy Father|
|18.00||MEETING WITH MIGRANTS at the premises of diocesan Caritas||Greeting of the Holy Father|
|Sunday 31 March 2019RABAT-ROME|
|9.30||VISIT TO THE CENTRE RURAL DES SERVICES SOCIAUX of Témara|
|10.35||MEETING WITH PRIESTS, RELIGIOUS, CONSECRATED PERSONS and the ECUMENICAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES in the Cathedral of Rabat||Address of the Holy FatherAngelus of the Holy Father|
|12.00||Lunch with the Papal Entourage|
|14.45||HOLY MASS||Homily of the Holy Father|
|17.00||FAREWELL CEREMONY at Rabat-Salé International Airport|
|17:15||Departure by air for Rome|
|21:30||Arrival at Rome-Ciampino International Airport|