Pope Francis security scare in Morocco as man sprints towards King Mohammed’s car and is tackled by his guards while the pontiff looks on during visit to build Christian-Muslim ties
- Images from state broadcaster showed the dramatic moment at the motorcade when the man charged out
- The Pope is visiting the North African country to encourage ‘interfaith dialogue’ over two days
- The pontiff is also seen as coming to console Muslims after Christchurch shootings on March 15
A man charged towards the car the King of Morocco Mohammed VI was travelling in, in the same motorcade as Pope Francis today.
Dramatic live footage from the North African country’s state broadcaster showed security guards quickly seize the man.
King Mohammed’s open-top car was travelling alongside the Pope’s vehicle in Rabat during his two-day visit.
The papal car pulled out in front and as the King continued to wave, the man – who appeared to be holding a note – darted towards it.
The King looks on as a man attempts to break the barrier of security between him and the crowds in a rainy Rabat today
King Mohammed VI looks on as a man is detained by security during the welcoming ceremony for Pope Francis in Rabat
The man darted with his right arm raised – appearing to hold a note – but was quickly spotted and dealt with by security
Pope Francis and King Mohammed VI parade in tandem into town for a formal welcome ceremony, in Rabat, Morocco
King Mohammed VI (right) waves to the crowd from his car as he arrives with Pope Francis (left) in his pope mobile in Tour Hassan square upon the pontiff’s arrival in the North African country
Francis is on a two-day visit to Morocco, also backed Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s efforts to spread a moderate form of Islam that promotes inter-religious dialogue and rejects any form of terrorism or violence in God’s name
Pope Francis arrives at the Presidential Palace in the capital Rabat today during the pontiff’s visit which will see him meet Muslim leaders and migrants
Rabat has stepped up security ahead of the first papal visit to the North African country since John Paul II in 1985. Pope Francis is pictured alongside King Mohammed VI of Morocco on their way to the Presidential Palace in Rabat today
The Pope’s visit to the 99 per cent Muslim country is to boost interfaith dialogue.
Improving relations with other religions has been a priority for the Argentine pontiff, whose papacy has been marred by a wave of child sex abuse allegations against clergy.
Addressing thousands of Moroccans who had braved the rain to attend the welcome ceremony, Francis said it was ‘essential to oppose fanaticism’.
He stressed the need for ‘appropriate preparation of future religious guides’, ahead of meeting trainee imams later today.
Speaking at the ceremony at the Tour (or tower) Hassan mosque and nearby mausoleum in Rabat, Francis defended ‘freedom of conscience’ and ‘religious freedom’.
‘Live as brothers,’ he told a crowd of around 25,000, after arriving from the airport in his Popemobile, passing rows of Moroccan and Vatican City flags.
Pope Francis and King Mohamed VI greet officials at the Mohammed VI Institute, a school of learning for imams. Pope Francis is on a two-day tour of Morocco aimed at highlight the North African nation’s tradition of Christian-Muslim ties while also showing solidarity with migrants at Europe’s door
Pope Francis (left) and King Mohammed VI of Morocco (right) shake hands after a signature ceremony at the Royal Palace. It came after a man earlier charged towards the car the King of Morocco Mohammed VI was travelling in
Pope Francis and King Mohammed VI of Morocco attend a signature ceremony at the Royal Palace in the Moroccan capital
Francis (pictured at a signature ceremony) is at the start a two-day visit to Morocco, also backed Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s (right) efforts to spread a form of Islam that promotes inter-religious dialogue and rejects violence in God’s name
Pope Francis also visited the Hassan II mosque during his apostolic journey in Rabat, and is pictured here alongside King Mohammed VI of Morocco
Pope Francis greets children during his visit to a centre run by the Catholic humanitarian organisation Caritas, which hosts migrants, in the Moroccan capital Rabat
Pope Francis meets with migrants at the premises of the diocesan Caritas in Rabat. He told migrants seeking protection in Morocco that they are ‘at the center of the church’s heart,’ not on its margins, and deserve to welcomed, cared for and integrated into their new homes
Well-wishers packed the esplanade outside the partly-finished 12th century mosque, while others, including many Moroccans in traditional costume, lined the nearby.
He also spoke about the issue of migration at the ceremony, criticising Donald Trump’s plans to build a wall at the Mexican border.
‘The issue of migration will never be resolved by raising barriers, fomenting fear of others or denying assistance to those who legitimately aspire to a better life for themselves and their families,’ Francis said at the welcoming ceremony.
‘We know too that the consolidation of true peace comes through the pursuit of social justice, which is indispensable for correcting the economic imbalances and political unrest that have always had a major role in generating conflicts and threatening the whole of humanity.’
Pope slams Donald Trump’s wall plan on visit to Morocco
Pope Francis said on Saturday that problems of migration would never be resolved by physical barriers but instead required social justice and correcting the world’s economic imbalances.
U.S. President Donald Trump, has vowed to fulfil his campaign pledge to build a wall along the border with Mexico and on Friday threatened to close the border next week if Mexico did not stop immigrants reaching the United States.
But Francis said today, as he arrived in Morocco: ‘The issue of migration will never be resolved by raising barriers, fomenting fear of others or denying assistance to those who legitimately aspire to a better life for themselves and their families.
‘We know too that the consolidation of true peace comes through the pursuit of social justice, which is indispensable for correcting the economic imbalances and political unrest that have always had a major role in generating conflicts and threatening the whole of humanity,’ he said.’
Rabat has stepped up security ahead of the first papal visit to the North African country since John Paul II in 1985. Buildings have been repainted, streets decorated and lawns manicured for the pope’s two-day visit.
In the afternoon, the pope spoke again of migration during a visit to a Church-run shelter. He called migration ‘a great and deep wound that continues to afflict our world at the beginning of this 21st century. A wound that cries out to heaven.’
He said migrants and refugees had rights and dignity ‘independent of their legal status’ and that host communities should reject ‘all forms of discrimination and xenophobia’.
Francis and the king visited an institute the monarch founded to train imams and male and female preachers of Islam. There are around 1,300 students studying to become imams and preachers at the institute, teaching ‘moderate Islam’ and backed by the king.
Students at the school told Pope Francis and Morocco’s king that they will bring home the lessons of building bridges between religions and promoting a moderate model of Islam.
Nigerian student Hindu Usman told the leaders during Francis’ visit Saturday that she hopes to spread tolerance and peaceful coexistence between Christians, Muslims. She said her country needs advocates to help resolve conflict and misunderstandings.
She said: ‘Upon my graduation and return home, I will be able to argue and convince that religion is for peace and goodness … that women are equal with men in their rights.’
Morocco, which is almost entirely Muslim, has promoted itself as an oasis of religious tolerance in a region torn by militancy. It has offered training to Muslim preachers from Africa and Europe on what it describes as moderate Islam.
Francis, making the first papal visit to Morocco in 34 years, praised the monarch for providing ‘sound training to combat all forms of extremism, which so often lead to violence and terrorism, and which, in any event, constitute an offence against religion and against God himself’.
Vatican News said that the Pope is also seen as coming to console Muslims after the Christchurch shootings in New Zealand on March 15.
Despite the country being so heavily Muslim, many newspapers have splashed the 82-year-old Argentine’s picture on their front pages. It is viewed as a positive move by Moroccans.
King Mohammed VI of Morocco (right) waves, as Pope Francis (left) wipes his forehead in the Moroccan capital
Pope Francis (L) greets Mohammed VI of Morocco (2nd-L), in the presence of Crown Prince Moulay Hassan (2nd-R) and Prince Moulay Rachid (R), arrives at the Presidential Palace
Pope Francis and King Mohammed VI of Morocco arrive at the Presidential Palace in the capital covered by umbrellas
King Mohammed VI waves next to Pope Francis – who wipes rain from his head – as they arrive at the Hassan Tower esplanade
Pope Francis is received by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI upon disembarking from his plane at Rabat-Sale International Airport near the capital Rabat. He was gifted with a traditional welcome of milk and dates
People take cover from the rain as they wait for the arrival of Pope Francis at the Hassan Tower esplanade in Rabat
There was rainfall as people waited to hear the Pope speak today, with his visit designed to highlight the North African nation’s tradition of Christian-Muslim ties
People take cover from the rain as they wait for the arrival of Pope Francis at the Hassan Tower esplanade in Rabat
‘L’Opinion’, a daily francophone Moroccan newspaper, led with the headline, ‘Pope Francis Among Us.’
Also broadcast was the Pope’s video message. It was shown with Arabic subtitles.
He said he was coming to Morocco on ‘a pilgrimage of peace and fraternity, in a world that greatly needs it.’
‘It will be a joy for me to share these convictions directly with you at the meeting we will have in Rabat,’ he finished his address.
It was Rabat today that saw the scenes that may have caused alarm among Christians and Muslims alike. It is still unclear what the motive of absconder was but it did seem that he ran to his king and not the Pope.
The Pope will also hold a mass with Morocco’s minority catholic community during his visit.
His plane landed today at around 2pm today in the capital today where he was met by the King who is known as the ‘commander of the faithful.’ The King will host him at his palace later today.
King Mohammed VI of Morocco (right) welcomes Pope Francis (left) in Rabat upon the pontiff’s arrival in the North African country on a visit which will see him meet Muslim leaders and migrants ahead of a mass with the minority Catholic community
Francis (pictured arriving today), starting a two-day visit to Morocco, also backed Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s efforts to spread a moderate form of Islam that promotes inter-religious dialogue and rejects any form of terrorism or violence in God’s name
From the airport to the city centre, Francis (pictured leaving his airplane) was driven in a white popemobile on a drizzly day as the 55-year-old king rode beside him standing in a separate vehicle, a vintage black 1969 open-top Mercedes 600 Pullman
Women cheer as they wait for Pope Francis to arrive at the Mohammed VI Institute, a school of learning for imams
Pope Francis signing the visitors’ book after paying his respects at the tomb of late kings Mohamed V and Hassan II, in Rabat
Last month Francis visited the United Arab Emirates, where he met with Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s prestigious seat of learning.
The two signed a document on ‘human fraternity for world peace’, which among other things called for ‘freedom of belief’ and ‘full citizenship’ rights for minorities.
Francis will not hesitate to refer to the text, which from now on he will give to all heads of state, Gisotti said.
In Morocco, where Islam is the state religion, authorities are keen to stress the country’s ‘religious tolerance’ which allows Christians and Jews to worship freely.
But Moroccans are automatically considered Muslim if they are not born into the Jewish community, apostasy is socially frowned upon, and proselytising is a criminal offence.
Those who try to ‘rock the faith of a Muslim or to convert him to another religion’ risk a prison term of up to three years.
After years in the shadows, since 2017 the small number of converts have called openly for the right to live ‘without persecution’ and ‘without discrimination’.
Around 30,000 to 35,000 Catholics live in Morocco, many of them from sub-Saharan Africa.
Pope Francis waves from the popemobile lined with security and police on motorbikes in the Moroccan capital Rabat
There was a large security presence as the Pope made his way through the streets of Rabat this afternoon, on the first day of his visit to the country
Pope Francis and king Mohammed VI greet people during a welcome ceremony on the Esplanade of the Mosque Hassan in Rabat
King Mohammed VI of Morocco greets the crowds as he makes his way to the Presidential Palace with Pope Francis
The pope is due to finish his Saturday schedule by meeting migrants at a centre run by Catholic humanitarian organisation Caritas.
The charity runs day centres for migrants who are trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean, as well as helping them access services.
The number of people taking the sea route from Morocco to Spain has recently surged as it has become harder for them to pass through Libya.
In 2017, Caritas centres in Rabat, Casablanca and Tangiers welcomed 7,551 new arrivals, according to the charity.
Rabat claims to have a ‘humanistic’ approach to migration and rejects allegations by rights groups of ‘brutal arrest campaigns’ and ‘forced displacement’ to the country’s southern border.
Francis has throughout his papacy highlighted the plight of migrants and refugees, calling on Catholics as well as politicians to show solidarity with those in need.
On Sunday, the pope will celebrate mass at a Rabat stadium with an estimated 10,000 people attending.