Historic Meeting between Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt.
Vatican City, 10 May 2013 (VIS) - The visit of Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, “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 pontiff remarked on the memorable meeting that took place, 40 years ago, between the predecessors of both, Pope Paul VI and Pope Shenouda III, which united them “in an embrace of peace and fraternity, after centuries of mutual distance.”
The Joint Declaration that was signed then by those two Popes represented “a milestone on the ecumenical journey” and helped institute a joint commission of theological dialogue between the two Churches, which “has yielded good results and has prepared the ground for a broader dialogue between the Catholic Church and the entire family of Oriental Orthodox Churches, a dialogue that continues to bear fruit to this day. In that solemn Declaration,” Francis emphasized, “our Churches acknowledged that, in line with the apostolic traditions, they profess “one faith in the One Triune God” and 'the divinity of the Only-begotten Son of God ... perfect God with respect to his divinity, perfect man with respect to his humanity'. They acknowledged that divine life is given to us and nourished through the seven sacraments and they recognized a mutual bond in their common devotion to the Mother of God.”
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.”