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The Latest: Muslim students talk to pope about tolerance

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — The Latest on the Pope's trip to Morocco (all times local): 7:55 p.m. Students at a school for Muslim preachers have 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." Although women are unable to become imams, women are trained in the Mohammed VI Institute and graduate with the title of female preachers so they can give lessons on the values of moderate Islam to female mosque-goers.

The institute receives students from all over Europe and Africa.

7:20 p.m.

Pope Francis is telling a group of 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.

Francis denounced the "merchants of human flesh" who traffic in desperation and called for greater legal channels for migration during a visit to a Catholic charity caring for the migrants who have flocked to Morocco seeking passage to Europe.

And he said all migrants, regardless of their legal status, deserved protection, particularly the most vulnerable children and women. The pope told them "you are not the marginalized. You are at the center of the church's heart."

Morocco last year became the main destination for sub-Saharan African migrants seeking to reach Europe via Spain.

6 p.m.

Pope Francis and Moroccan King Mohammed VI are calling for Jerusalem to be preserved as a symbol of peaceful coexistence and for Muslims, Jews and Christians to be allowed to worship there freely.

The two leaders issued a joint appeal on Saturday as Francis arrived in the Moroccan capital Rabat for an overnight visit.

The appeal said it was important to preserve the Holy City "as the common patrimony of humanity and especially the followers of the three monotheistic religions, as a place of encounter and as a symbol of peaceful coexistence, where mutual respect and dialogue can be cultivated."

Tensions erupted in late February over Israel's closure of a building at a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

The walled compound, home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock, is the third-holiest site in Islam and the holiest site of Judaism.

5:15 p.m.

Morocco's King Mohammed VI is calling for more religious dialogue between Muslims and Christians and says education is the answer to religious extremism.

Greeting Pope Francis on the pontiff's first visit to Morocco on Saturday, the king said challenging times are facing the world's religious community and require dialogue "for the sake of the future and that of the coming generations."

Reading segments of his speech in Arabic, French, Spanish and English, the king said: "We need to tackle these new ills, which feed on treachery as much as on the instrumentalization of the divine message. What all terrorists have in common is not religion but rather ignorance of religion."

Morocco has sought to become a voice of moderate Islam in the Muslim world.

5 p.m.

Pope Francis is urging Morocco to continue offering migrants welcome and protection, saying at the start of a visit to the North African kingdom that the global migration crisis cannot be resolved by building walls, spreading fear or denying aid.

Francis arrived Saturday in Rabat, the capital of Morocco, which last year became the main destination for sub-Saharan African migrants seeking to reach Europe.

In a speech at the Hassan Tour complex, where two of Morocco's monarchs are buried, Francis told King Mohamed VI and government officials that he hoped Morocco would continue to be a model of humanity, welcome and protection for migrants seeking a better life.

He said: "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."

4:30 p.m.

Moroccan security agents have tackled a man who broke though security and ran toward King Mohammed VI as he and Pope Francis greeted crowds during an in-tandem motorcade parade in the Moroccan capital.

The man didn't reach the king, who seemed not to notice the disturbance on Saturday. The man appeared to be waving an envelope as he tried to snake his way between the motorcade vehicles before being tackled. His fate was unknown.

The incident occurred as the king was escorting Francis to the Hassan Tower complex for a formal welcome ceremony.

Francis is in Morocco for a quick trip to boost Christian-Muslim ties and show solidarity with the country's growing migrant community.

3:40 p.m.

Pope Francis is praising Morocco's efforts to promote an Islam that repudiates extremism as he opens a quick trip to the North African kingdom that has tried to distinguish itself as a beacon of religious tolerance and moderation in the Muslim world.

King Mohamed VI welcomed Francis on Saturday as the pope began a visit aimed at encouraging Christian-Muslim ties and showing solidarity with Morocco's ever-growing migrant community.

In a speech to the king and Moroccan authorities at the Hassan Tower complex, Francis said it was "essential" for all believers to counter religious fanaticism and extremism with solidarity. He called religious extremism "an offense against religion and against God himself."

Later Saturday Francis is heading to a migrant welcome center run by the Caritas Catholic charity.

2:25 p.m.

Pope Francis has arrived in Morocco for a trip aimed at highlighting the North African nation's tradition of Christian-Muslim ties, while also letting him show solidarity with migrants at Europe's door and tend to a tiny Catholic flock.

Francis will address the first two items Saturday, and the third when he wraps up the visit with a Mass and a meeting with Moroccan clergy on Sunday.

Moroccan King Mohammed VI was on hand to greet Francis when he landed under a pouring rain in Rabat, the Moroccan capital, for a 27-hour visit.

The highlight of the trip is likely to be Francis' visit Saturday to the Mohammed VI Institute, a school of learning for imams that epitomizes Morocco's efforts to promote a moderate brand of Islam and export it via preachers to Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

10 a.m.

Pope Francis's weekend trip to Morocco aims to highlight the North African nation's tradition of Christian-Muslim ties while also letting him show solidarity with migrants at Europe's door and tend to a tiny Catholic flock on the peripheries.

Francis will address the first two items on the agenda Saturday when he begins his 27-hour visit to Rabat, the Moroccan capital. He'll tend to the third when he wraps up the visit with a Mass and a meeting with Moroccan clergy on Sunday.

The highlight of the trip is likely to be Francis' visit Saturday to the Mohammed VI Institute, a school of learning for imams that epitomizes Morocco's efforts to promote a moderate brand of Islam and export it via preachers to Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

Morocco, a Sunni Muslim kingdom of 36 million, reformed its religious policies and education to limit the spread of fundamentalism in 2004, following terrorist bombings in Casablanca that killed 43 people.

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