Fès – “The parishes of the two dioceses of Tangier and Rabat are experiencing with trepidation and great joy the arrival of Pope Francis. The ‘Baba’ of Rome is well known and respected as a man of dialogue and peace”: this is what Father Matteo Revelli, a priest of the Society for African Missions (SMA) and parish priest of St. Francis of Assisi in Fès, says to Agenzia Fides.
“Days ago – continues the priest – national television carried out an interview with the Moroccan associations that are based within the premises of our parish. They wanted to emphasize that the church is not a closed place reserved for Christians and worship, but also wants to be a place where to meet and dialogue. Our young Christians and the young Moroccans who are part of these associations share adjacent spaces, without any particular problems between them”.
Fr. Revelli explains: “On 30 and 31 March, a group of 130 students will go to Rabat. The Saturday bus is reserved for choristers and those who are part of the African Student Association in Morocco (AECAM). The Catholic students of Fès come from about thirty sub-Saharan countries. Some of them are already baptized in their countries, others are “nominally Catholic”. Seeing so many students who, in a context such as Morocco where Islam is often lived with commitment, feel driven to take their faith seriously is a good thing. Today we experience the same experience that Charles de Foucauld made while exploring Morocco: seeing the commitment to prayer and fasting of Muslims during the month of Ramadan, he decided to deepen his faith that he had abandoned”.
“Four hundred and fifty Catholics ‘dispersed’ geographically in the city of Fès, out of about one and a half million Muslims, may seem a paltry presence, but it is very real and important, because it allows our Moroccan friends to see the face of Christ, not written in a Sacred book, but lived in the coherence of a Christian’s life”, the missionary said.
Currently there are 3 SMA priests in Morocco, who come from three different provinces: Father Gilbert Bonouvrié from the Netherlands, engaged in pastoral work in Agadir; Father Wladyslaw Penkala from Poland, present in Eljadida; Fr. Matteo Revelli, Italian for 13 years in the pastoral animation of the parish of Fès.
“The Catholic community of Fès in recent years has grown and consolidated in some of its structures”, explains Fr. Revelli. “In a parish that every year receives around 80 new students from 20 countries, it is not easy to quickly understand what are the specificities of being Christians in Morocco, and to welcome pastoral proposals different from those of their original parishes. The student community shows dynamism, cohesion, and this ethnic and cultural pluralism is always a challenge, in all pastoral activities”
Rabat – “Patience and joy”: these are the words that the Archbishop of Rabat, Mgr. Cristobal Lòpez Romero, addresses to the Moroccan people in view of the imminent visit of Pope Francis. “It takes a lot of patience, because an event of this magnitude exceeds all of us, it is very difficult to foresee everything: there are always aspects that do not work”, reports the Archbishop in a note sent to Agenzia Fides.
“Let us try to have patience and understanding and and fully experience this precious moment. All of us, together with the local authorities, have done everything possible. The joy of our hearts, visible through our songs, our dances and our words, must make us fully enjoy this moment. We must listen to the message that Pope Francis gives us, which is the message of the Gospel. We see in him the presence of Jesus and we are in communion, close to the one who is the point of unity for the whole Church. The most important thing is to grasp the message of dialogue and encounter, of fraternity and peace, which Pope Francis brings with him. Through prayer, silence and even fasting, which our young people will live, now is the time to receive the Pope”, concludes Mgr. Romero.