Today's general audience was entirely centred on the meeting with the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, 50 years after the joint friendship declaration signed with Paul VI. "We have chosen love, even if we go against the tide with respect to the greedy and selfish,” Tawadros said. Francis spoke of the Coptic martyrs beheaded by the Islamic State in Libya in 2015 and expressed hope for “the blessed day when we will be one in Christ!”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, came together today in the parvis of St Peter's Square to meet and bless the faithful together during the Wednesday General Audience.
Instead of the traditional catechesis, the weekly event was given over to addresses by the two leaders.
Under pouring rain, Francis found Tawadros waiting for him. The Coptic leader is in Rome to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic first meeting in 1973 between Saint Paul VI and the then Coptic Pope Shenouda III.
The two signed a common Christological declaration which has been the basis for progress in the joint ecumenical journey undertaken by the two Churches.
It is at Tawadros’s initiative that 10 May was chosen as the “Day of Coptic-Catholic Friendship".
“We call each other on the telephone, we send greetings, and we remain good brothers, we haven’t quarrelled!” said a smiling Francis as he introduced the illustrious guest.
Speaking in Arabic, the Coptic patriarch thanked the pontiff for his visit to Egypt in 2017 and for everything that was "done in this period to serve the entire world in all fields.
“I pray,” he added, addressing the pontiff, “that Christ will keep you in full health and grant you the blessing of a long life.”
"We have chosen love,” Tawadros said referring to the relations between Catholic and Coptic Churches, “even if we go against the tide with respect to the greedy and selfish world; we have accepted the challenge of love that Christ asks of us and we will be true Christians and the world will become more human because the whole world will know that God is love and that this is his highest name.”
"I stand here in the place where Paul and Peter the Apostles preached," he concluded, "and I am happy to meet you in this magnificent square."
He urged everyone to keep the promises of baptism so as “to overcome the evil of the world with all its weaknesses, as our fathers taught us, and live up to the responsibility we have, and live as the sweet fragrance of Christ in this world and gather for His peace. Let us invoke for the whole world a peace that transcends all minds, praying that it may reach everywhere and that it may be the priority of leaders and peoples.”
In his response, Pope Francis said: “I thank you from my heart for your commitment to the growing friendship between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church.
“Holiness, dear bishops, all of you, together with you I implore God Almighty, by the intercession of the Saints and Martyrs of the Coptic Church, that He may help us grow in communion, in a single and holy bond of faith, hope and Christian love.
“And speaking of martyrs of the Coptic Church, who are also ours, I want to recall the martyrs on the Libyan beach, who [were] martyred a few years ago.[*]
“I ask all of you present to pray to God that He may bless Pope Tawadros’ visit to Rome, and protect the entire Coptic Orthodox Church. May this visit hasten us to the blessed day when we will be one in Christ!”
[*] The reference is to Copts beheaded by the Islamic State group in 2015.