The people of Morocco on Saturday defied the heavy downpour to welcome Pope Francis to their country.
The Pope was received at the Rabat Sale Airport by His Majesty King Mohammed VI, King of Morocco and was immediately driven to the Esplanade Mausoleum where a grand reception had been organised for him.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the excited crowd on sighting the Pope stood up with cheers and admiration for the cleric who was visiting Morocco for the first time.
NAN reports that more than 100 Imams, government officials, students, Christians, Muslims, migrants, local and international journalists among others attended the reception.
In spite of the heavy downpour which began as early as 9 a.m. people started arriving at the venue to enable them secure seats at vantage position so they could have a glimpse of the Pope.
Security was very tight as both the Moroccan Police and Army had barricaded all routes leading to the venue of the reception a few days to the Pope’s visit.
Journalists were not allowed to enter the venue of the reception with their cell phones, cameras, laptops and other gadgets as they were collected from them at the entrance.
Only six International Press were allowed inside the venue of the reception with their equipment and other gadgets.
Pope Francis who spoke in the Spanish language, commended His Majesty, King of Morocco and his people for accepting and being hospitable to migrants.
NAN reports that the Pope who was on a two-day visit to Morocco met with the government officials on the need to accept migrants.
The Pope also visited the Mohammed VI Institute where Imams, male and female are being trained on the tenets of Islam.
He commended Moroccans for allowing people to practice their different religions, “especially Christians in peace without fear, intimidation or harassment”.
Addressing the mammoth crowd, the pope said, “ Christians are deeply appreciative of the place accorded them in Morocco society.
“They wish to do their part in building a fraternal and prosperous nation out of concern for the common good of its people.
“I assure you that the Catholic Church in Morocco will continue to provide social services in the field of education through its schools which are opened to every confession, religion and background.
“In thanking God for all that have been accomplished, I encourage Catholics and Christians to be servants, promoters and defenders of human fraternity in Morocco,”
Welcoming the Pope earlier, King Mohammed said “our faith teaches us to love our fellow human beings and to help them.
“Because God is love, I have tried to make sure my reign is characterised by closeness to citizens as well as resisting the poorest and most vulnerable people, ” the King said.
NAN reports that there are more than 120,000 Christians in Morocco which has about 37 million population.
Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of the Vatican City State was born as Jorge Mario Bergoglio on December 17, 1936, in Buenos Aires
He chose the name Francis as his papal name in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi.
He was ordained a priest in 1969 and became Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998.