During the Wednesday General Audience at the Vatican, Pope Tawadros II, leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, delivered a speech alongside Pope Francis, marking a momentous occasion in the relationship between the Roman Catholic and Coptic Orthodox Churches.
Notably, this event occurred exactly fifty years after a pivotal agreement on Christology was reached between the two Churches.
The meeting between Pope Tawadros and Pope Francis began with the exchange of greetings and a joint prayer. “Beloved brother, His Holiness Pope Francis,” said Pope Tawadros, “Christ is risen, He is truly risen!”
The Coptic Orthodox leader recalled his last visit to St Peter’s Square, ten years ago today. “I look at this place,” he said, “and I go back in my memory to ten years ago, on this same date, and I remember your dear affection in welcoming me, together with the delegation of the Coptic Church.”
Pope Tawadros reflected on a significant event that took place on May 10th, 2013, when he proposed the annual celebration of a “Day of Coptic-Catholic Friendship”. Since then, he and Pope Francis have made a tradition of speaking on the phone every year on this day. During his speech at the Wednesday General Audience, Pope Tawadros expressed gratitude to Pope Francis for his visit to Egypt in 2017. Noting that Egypt, the birthplace of monasticism, has deep Christian roots, he emphasized the significance of the country to his Church.
“Despite the differences in our roots and affiliations,” he said, “we are united by the love of Christ who dwells within us, and the host of our Apostolic Fathers and saints which surrounds and guides us.”
“It is with great joy”, said Pope Francis, “that I greet today His Holiness Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St Mark.”
“Dear friend and brother Tawadros,” he continued in his greetings to the faithful, “I thank you for accepting my invitation on this double anniversary, and I pray that the light of the Holy Spirit might illuminate your visit to Rome.”
Pope Tawadros then delivered a speech to the crowd gathered in St Peter’s Square, becoming the first head of another Church to address the audience during a General Audience.
In his address, Pope Tawadros expressed his gratitude to Pope Francis for his invitation to visit the Vatican and for the opportunity to speak at the General Audience. He spoke about the longstanding relationship between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, noting that the two Churches share a common history and heritage.
The joint appearance by Pope Tawadros and Pope Francis at the General Audience highlights the continued commitment of both Churches to the spirit of the Common Declaration and to the promotion of mutual understanding and respect between different religious traditions.
A social media post from 2018 shows pictures of Pope Tawadros and Pope Francis at the entrance of Basilica of St Nicholas.
Tender moments between #PopeFrancis and #Coptic #Orthodox Pope Tawadros II at entrance of Basilica of St Nicholas.#PopeFrancis is in #Bari, for day of prayer and reflection with Christian leaders of Middle East pic.twitter.com/8aFJUGPIVA
— Deborah Castellano Lubov (@DeborahLubov) July 7, 2018