After a devastating earthquake struck Morocco on September 8 of this year, killing and injuring thousands of people– the deadliest earthquake in Morocco since a 5.9-magnitude earthquake in 1960–homes in villages across the High Atlas Mountains were demolished and residents took to the streets.

Tremors were felt as far as Portugal and Spain, and the death toll has reached over 2,900, with over 5,600 injured. Moroccan authorities have sent military and civilian responders to rescue survivors and provide emergency shelter.

Pope Francis has called for prayers for the “noble Moroccan people,” asking God to strengthen them to recover from this devastating event. The Holy Father urged prayers for Morocco, “asking that the Lord might give them ‘strength to recover after this terrible ambush they have endured.’”

Many of the victims live in small villages in mountain areas, making rescue efforts more challenging. Humanitarian aid efforts are ongoing.

Much like the small but significant Catholic presence in Mongolia, the Church “does exist in Morocco,” said Mgr. Cristobal Lopez Romera, bishop of Rabat in a television broadcast for Aid to the Church in Need in March of 2019. 

In a population of 37 million including 99.9% Muslims, .08% are Catholics, worshiping in one cathedral in Tangier and one in Rabat. Just like Mongolian Catholic leaders describe their community, Bishop Lopez Romero calls the Moroccan Church “Samaritan,” reaching out to assist those in need.

“The Church takes in and cares for those in need, that is, it is a Samaritan Church,” said Lopez Romero. “Through its Caritas organization, Morocco takes care of thousands of migrants who cross the Sahara and then, after having completed this difficult crossing, ‘remain stuck’ in the country … These people need care and a sympathetic ear. The Church takes them in. It protects, promotes, and integrates them, just as Pope Francis has asked us to do.”

The Bishop pointed out that the work of the Catholic Church in Morocco is “so important that ‘even the Muslim authorities appreciate its efforts.’”

The pontifical foundation ACN’s 2018 Religious Freedom in the World Report said that the kingdom of Morocco is a sovereign Muslim state. Christians still face forms of discrimination in the predominantly Muslim country, and under the Moroccan Penal Code, proselytism by non-Muslims — that is to “shake the faith” of the Muslim population, is illegal.

The Holy Father’s call to prayer is vital for both humanitarian relief in the wake of disaster and for the fledgling Church in this North African country, known for being one of the most tolerant of the Arab nations.

Image: St. Peter’s Cathedral, Rabat. By mustapha ennaimi from casablanca, maroc – DSC_3198, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=76436489

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Kristi McCabe is an award-winning freelance writer, Catechist, a former teacher and editor who lives with her family in Owensboro, Kentucky.  As an adoptive mother of four and an adoptee herself, Kristi is an avid supporter of pro-life ministries.  She is active in her local parish and has served as Eucharistic minister and in various children's ministries.

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