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Morocco’s cardinal: Christians should be a ‘sacrament of encounter’ for Muslim neighbors

CristobalRomero DanielIbanez ACIPrensa 05102019 Cardinal Cristóbal López Romero./ Daniel Ibanez / CNA.

The archbishop of Rabat has launched a diocesan synod to encourage the small Catholic community in Morocco to more fully live out its mission of “encounter and dialogue.”

Cardinal Cristóbal López Romero told ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian language news partner, that he believes Catholics in Morocco can do more to be “an outgoing Church” and live out Islamic-Christian dialogue in their daily lives in the 99% Sunni Muslim country.

“Ours is an unassuming Church -- we are less than 0.1% of the population -- but it seeks to be significant, and it desires to be a sign and sacrament of the Kingdom of God,” López Romero said in the interview published June 4.

“To live dialogue on a daily basis, the Christian must know and feel himself as the ‘sacrament of encounter,’” he said.

The Spanish-born cardinal said that he convened the synod because “the whole local Church must ask itself how to concretely live its mission.”

“Our Church is a Church of encounter and dialogue. Yet, although we have made a good start, we can do much more,” he said.

“For example, how to live Islamic-Christian dialogue after the pope’s visit, after Fratelli tutti, after the document of the Universal Fraternity signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam al Tayyeb?”

In March 2019, Pope Francis visited the Moroccan capital, Rabat, where he signed an “Appeal for Jerusalem” with the Moroccan King Mohammed VI. The joint declaration called for Jerusalem to be preserved as a peaceful place of encounter for the three monotheistic religions.

“Thanks to this visit, the interest in our Church and the respect and appreciation for it increase day by day,” López Romero said.

“The authorities and the Moroccan people take an interest in us and systematically ask for our participation in interreligious meetings.”

The cardinal said that the pope’s trip inspired religious congregations to open houses in Morocco, which has given a boost to the pastoral and formative activities offered in his diocese.

Pope Francis elevated López Romero to the rank of cardinal just months after his visit. López Romero came to Morocco in 2003 to head the local Salesian community. Pope Francis appointed him archbishop of Rabat in December 2017.

In addition to interreligious dialogue, the cardinal said that he desires to see the ecumenical relationships among the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant communities in Rabat deepen and grow.

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López Romero convened the synod on May 23, Pentecost Sunday, entrusting the process to “the holy martyrs of Marrakech and under the protection of Mary, Our Lady of Morocco.”

The archbishop of Rabat said he hoped that the synod would help the local Church to be more “Samaritan,” and to evaluate how it can more effectively help those in need.

In the many ways that Moroccan Christians naturally encounter and engage in dialogue with their Muslim brothers and sisters in workplaces, schools, public transportation, and stores, it is necessary for Christians to have a strong identity and “sincerity of intentions,” López Romero said.

“The model of dialogue that we propose and offer can be none other than God himself: although he is God, he enters into a dialogue of love with humanity.”

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“And the Church, in the words of Paul VI, ‘becomes dialogue, becomes conversation.’”

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