Pope Francis was joined at his weekly General Audience by Pope Tawadros II, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, for a special joint greeting to the faithful. The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, spoke at the Wednesday General Audience with Pope Francis, fifty years to the day after a historic Christological agreement between their two Churches. The pair exchanged greetings, and Pope Tawadros addressed the crowd gathered in St Peter’s Square, the first time the head of another Church has done so. Tawadros’ greetings, “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 recalled that, on that occasion, on 10 May 2013, he had suggested that the date be celebrated as a ‘Day of Coptic-Catholic Friendship’ every year. Since then, he said, he and Pope Francis have spoken on the phone every year. The Coptic Orthodox leader went on to thank Francis for his visit to Egypt in 2017, recalling that the country – where his Church is based – has ancient Christian roots, and was the birthplace of monasticism.
“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.” Pope Francis’ response, “It is with great joy”, said Pope Francis in reply, “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, “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.” “I thank you from the heart, for your commitment to the growing friendship between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church,” added the Pope. Laying aside his prepared remarks for a moment, he looked over to Pope Tawadros, joking that although the pair speak every year on the phone, “we remain good brothers, and we haven’t fought!” Pope Francis concluded his address by speaking to the Coptic bishops and faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square. “Together with you,” he said, “I implore Almighty God, that, through the intercession of the saints and martyrs of the Coptic Church, He might help us to grow in communion.”