While speaking to Catholics at St. Peter's Cathedral in Rabat, Morocco on Sunday, Pope Francis warned the crowd of about 400 people against seeking to convert anyone to Catholicism, stating, "Please, no proselytism!"
Trying to convert people to Catholicism "always leads to an impasse," said the head of the 1.3-billion member church, as reported by Agence France-Presse.
There are about 30,000 Catholics and 10,000 Protestants in Morocco and they make up less than 1% of the population there.
"The Church grows not through proselytism but by attraction,” Francis said, as Reuters reported. “This means, dear friends, that our mission as baptized persons, priests and consecrated men and women, is not really determined by the number or size of spaces that we occupy, but rather by our capacity to generate change and to awaken wonder and compassion."
As reported, Pope Francis "has used his two-day trip to stress inter-faith dialogue. He has also backed Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s efforts to spread a form of Islam that promotes inter-religious dialogue and rejects violence in God’s name."
"[T]he Pope also stressed the need for inter-religious dialogue, saying people should resist 'classifying ourselves according to different moral, social, ethnic or religious criteria,'" reported Reuters.
The U.S. State Department reports, "According to [Morocco's] constitution, the country is a Muslim state, with full sovereignty, and Islam is the religion of the state. ... The law penalizes anyone who 'employs enticements to undermine the faith' or convert a Muslim to another faith, and provides punishments of six months to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of 200 to 500 dirhams ($21 to $53). It also provides the right to a court trial for anyone accused of such an offense."
"Voluntary conversion is not a crime under the law," according to the State Department.
"Sunni Muslims and Jews are the only religious groups recognized in the constitution as native to the country; other faiths are viewed as foreign" in Morrocco, reported the State Department. "Many foreign-resident Christian churches are registered as associations. Registered foreign-resident churches include the Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Protestant, and Anglican Churches, which maintain different forms of official status."