Morocco Christians urge religious freedom before pope visit

Pope Francis.
Pope Francis.
Image: Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

Morocco's Christian minority on Thursday called on authorities in the Muslim-majority country to guarantee religious freedoms, ahead of a visit by Pope Francis.

The Coordination of Moroccan Christians, a group representing converts to Christianity in a nation that is 99 percent Muslim, appealed for "basic freedoms of which we, Moroccan Christians, are still often deprived."

These include freedom of public worship as well as the right to have church or civil weddings and Christian funeral rites and education, it said in a statement.

"We dream of a free Morocco" which embraces religious diversity, the group said, adding that it hopes Pope Francis's visit this month will be a "historic occasion" for the country.

"We also call on the Moroccan authorities to no longer put pressure on the country's official churches, including the Catholic church in Morocco, to dissuade them from accepting" converts to Christianity, the statement said.

The pontiff is due to visit the North African country on March 30-31 at the invitation of King Mohammed VI.

More than 40,000 Christians - mostly foreigners - are estimated to live in Morocco, whose king describes himself as the "commander of the faithful".

Religious pluralism is enshrined in the constitution and freedom of worship is guaranteed, according to the Moroccan authorities.