The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark met with Pope Francis today in a historical meeting held in the Apostolic Palace today.
This is the first time in 40 years that a Coptic Pope has met with the Pope of Rome. On May 1973. Pope Shenouda III met with Pope Paul VI and signed an an important Christological Declaration in common and initiated bilateral ecumenical dialogue between the two Churches.
In his address to Pope Francis, Pope Tawadros II regarded the meeting as “an unforgettable occasion”, since it marks the anniversary of their respective predecessor’s meeting.
“May this visit of love and brotherhood be the first of a long series between our two great Churches. Therefore, I propose that the 10th of May of each year should be considered as a celebration of brotherly love between the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church,” the Pope of Alexandria said.
Emphasizing the relationship between the Church of Rome and the Church of Egypt over the centuries, Pope Tawadros expressed his gratitude for the shared communion between the two churches.
“Both Churches, the Catholic and the Coptic, have always worked together, in the Middle East and in the Western World, to make peace prevail. The most important aim for both is the promotion of ecumenical dialogue in order to get to the most pursued goal: unity,” the Coptic pope said.
Concluding his address, the Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark conveyed his hope that Pope Francis may soon visit Egypt. “The entire Coptic Church, the religious communities and the Egyptian people express their utmost joy and delight to Your Holiness,” Pope Tawadros said.
Pope Francis regarded the meeting between the two as a “truly graced moment” and welcomed the Coptic Pope with “deep affection.”
“Today’s visit,” Pope Francis said, “strengthens the bonds of friendship and brotherhood that already exist between the See of Peter and the See of Mark, heir to an inestimable heritage of martyrs, theologians, holy monks and faithful disciples of Christ, who have borne witness to the Gospel from generation to generation, often in situations of great adversity.”
Speaking on the Common Declaration signed by the late Pope Shenouda III and the late Pope Paul VI, the Holy Father stated that since then, the dialogue that exists between the two Churches continues to bear fruit.
“We are glad to be able to confirm today what our illustrious predecessors solemnly declared, we are glad to recognize that we are united by one Baptism, of which our common prayer is a special expression, and we long for the day when, in fulfilment of the Lord’s desire, we will be able to communicate from the one chalice.”
Pope Francis also recalled Blessed John Paul II’s visit to Egypt in 2000 as one of the “radiant moments of communion” between the Coptic Church and the Roman Catholic Church.
“I am convinced that – under the guidance of the Holy Spirit – our persevering prayer, our dialogue and the will to build communion day by day in mutual love will allow us to take important further steps towards full unity,” the Holy Father said.
The Holy Father applauded Pope Tawadros’ efforts to build a continuing dialogue among Christians, saying that his care for the future of Egypt and its Christian communities “find a deep echo in the heart of the Successor of Peter and of the entire Catholic community.”
“‘If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together’ (1 Cor 12:26). This is a law of the Christian life, and in this sense we can say that there is also an ecumenism of suffering,” Pope Francis said. “Just as the blood of the martyrs was a seed of strength and fertility for the Church, so too the sharing of daily sufferings can become an effective instrument of unity.”
Pope Francis concluded his address calling for a continued dialogue between Christian the Churches and invoked the protection of St. Peter and St. Mark, “who during their lifetime worked together in practical ways in spreading the Gospel.”