Vatican City, Nov 13, 2018 / 04:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis will head to two cities in Morocco March 30-31, 2019, the Vatican announced Tuesday.
Pope Francis will visit the cities of Rabat and Casablanca, a Nov. 13 message stated. The schedule of the trip is not yet published.
According to papal spokesman Greg Burke, the visit takes place at the invitation of King Mohammed VI of Morocco and the Catholic bishops.
Francis will be the second pope to visit the country, after St. Pope John Paul II went in 1985 as the first pope to visit a Muslim country at the invitation of the state.
Morocco, which is located on the north-west side of Africa, is a majority Muslim country. The total population, as of 2014, was around 29 million. There were an estimated 21,000 Catholics in the country in that year; just .1 percent of the population.
The country has two archdioceses; one in Ribat, the country’s capital city, and one based in Tanger.
After Pope Francis received an invitation to visit the country from King Mohammed earlier this year, there had been rumors about whether he would attend a United Nations gathering in December for the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration.
Now that the trip has been announced for March, what the pope’s agenda in Morocco will be has not yet been revealed, though it will likely focus on Christian-Muslim relations and migration.
The visit to Morocco falls just two months after the pope will travel to Panama Jan. 23-27, 2019, the only other Vatican confirmed apostolic visit in the upcoming year, though there have been comments from heads of state and bishops that say Francis may also be traveling to Romania and to Mozambique.
He has also expressed the desire to visit Japan. Cardinal Désiré Tsarahazana said at a Vatican press briefing Oct. 9 that the pope will visit Madagascar in 2019. Holy See spokesperson Greg Burke said at the time he could not confirm the trip, but that the possibility was “well under study.”