By Ese Erica Ekama
Pope Francis has urged Christians across the world to build friendship, particularly with adherents of other religions rather than trying to increase membership of the church.
The Pope, Head of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of the Vatican City State said this in his message at the Saint Peter’s Catholic Church in Rabat, Morocco on Sunday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Pope Francis was on a two-day visit to Morocco.
He said that at creation of the church, God called it to enter into dialogue with the world in which we live.
“The Church must enter into dialogue with the world in which we live. She has something to say, a message, a communication to make.
“To say that the church has to enter into dialogue is not to follow a fashion or strategy for increasing membership of churches.
“The church has to enter into dialogue just like our Lord and Master Jesus Christ who from the beginning moved by love centered into dialogue with us as a friend.
“As disciples of Jesus Christ and from the very day of our baptism, we have been called to be a part of the dialogue of salvation and friendship from which we are the first to benefit. ”
According to the Pope, Christians should have respect for the freedom of others to practice their religions.
Pope Francis cited how Saint Francis of Assisi encountered Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil during the early crusades and Blessed Charles de Foucault who were deeply impressed by the humble and meek life of Jesus of Nazareth.
“Dialogue then becomes prayer. We can carry it out daily in the name of human fraternity that embraces all human beings, unites them and makes them equal.
“A prayer that does not distinguish, separate or marginalise, but embraces the life of our neighbour.
“A prayer of intercession that says to the father, thy Kingdom Come. Not by violence, not by hatred, not by ethnic, religious or economic supremacy, but by love and compassion, ” Pope Francis said.
The Holy Father commended the church in Morocco for using dialogue, cooperation and friendship to sow a future of hope for upcoming generations.
This according to the Pope, will prevent attempt to exploit differences and ignorance in order to sow fear, hatred and conflict.
According to him, fear and hatred, nurtured and manipulated destabilise our communities and leave them spirituality defenceless. ”
NAN reports that the visit is the Pope’s second to the country, after Pope St. John Paul II went in 1985, as the first pope to visit a Muslim country, at the invitation of the state.
Pope Francis praised Morocco as a model of religious moderation and migrant welcome as he kicked off a trip to the kingdom Saturday, warning that walls and fear-mongering won’t stop people from exercising their legitimate right to seek a better life elsewhere.
King Mohammed VI welcomed Francis as he arrived during an unusual rainstorm and began a 27-hour visit aimed at boosting Christian-Muslim ties and showing solidarity with Morocco’s ever-growing migrant community.
Morocco last year became the main destination for sub-Saharan African migrants seeking to reach Europe via Spain.
The influx has strained the kingdom’s resources and fueled anti-migrant sentiment in Spain ahead of its April 28 general election.