Pope Francis met on Friday with the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, telling him the future of Egypt and the role of its Christian communities finds a deep echo in the heart of the entire Catholic world.
Pope Tawadros of Alexandria, who heads the largest Christian Church in the Middle East, is currently making a five day visit to Rome, his first outside Egypt since his enthronement last November. He’s due to hold talks with Vatican and Italian officials, as well as celebrating together with the various Coptic communities here in Italy.
The visit “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,” said Pope Francis on receiving the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt this morning.......The Bishop of Rome expressed his joy at being able to recognize one another as “united by one Baptism, of which our common prayer is a special expression that looks forward to the day when, in fulfilment of the Lord’s desire, we will be able to drink together from the one cup.”
Aware that the path to be traversed is still long, the Holy Father noted some of its milestones, such as Pope Shenouda's meeting in Cairo with Blessed John Paul II in February of 2000. John Paul II, who was on pilgrimage to the places where our faith originated, expressed his conviction that “—with 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 Pope also thanked the Patriarch for his care toward the Coptic Catholic Church that has been expressed, among other things, in the establishment of a “National Council of Christian Churches”. This undertaking “represents an important sign of the will of all believers in Christ to develop relations in daily life that are increasingly fraternal and to put themselves at the service of the whole of Egyptian society, of which they form an integral part. Let me assure Your Holiness,” Pope Francis added, “that your efforts to build communion among believers in Christ, and your lively interest in the future of your country and the role of the Christian communities within Egyptian society 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'. This is a law of Christian life, and in this sense we can say that there is also an ecumenism of suffering: 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. This also applies, in a certain sense, to the broader context of society and relations between Christians and non-Christians: from shared suffering can blossom forth—with God’s help—forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace.”
Friday’s meeting between the Catholic and Oriental Orthodox popes comes 40 years to the day after the first historic encounter between Pope Paul VI and Tawadros’ predecessor, Shenouda III, who signed a joint statement pledging the two Churches to the search for reconciliation and unity.
In his speech to Pope Francis, Tawadros proposed that May 10th each year should be marked as a day of celebration between the two communities. He also invited the successor of St Peter to visit his Church, founded by St Mark the Evangelist around the middle of the 1st century.
You can listen to the full report from Vatican Radio HERE and read the text of Pope Francis address HERE.
Associated Press coverage available here
Huffington Post has a series of photos at the bottom of their story here.