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Roman Pontiff meets meets Coptic Pope in Vatican

17 May 2013


THE need for Christian unity in the face of global challenges was a theme discussed during a meeting in the Vatican at the end of last week between Pope Francis and the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, Pope Tawadros II.

It was only the second time that a Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria had visited the Vatican; the first occasion was exactly 40 years ago, when Pope Shenouda III held talks with Pope Paul VI.

Pope Tawadros said that the Roman Catholic and Coptic Churches had worked together in the Middle East and elsewhere "to make peace prevail. The most important aim for both is the promotion of ecumenical dialogue in order to get to the most pur-sued goal: unity." Working together to "promote ecumenical dialogue . . . will be our mutual aim", he said.

He proposed that 10 May each year should be observed as "a celebration of brotherly love between the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church".

Pope Francis said that he recognised the difficulties faced by Egyptian Christians: "Let me assure you 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."

Pope Francis also agreed with Pope Tawadros that their two Churches should work towards a common future, after centuries of mutual distrust: "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."

Pope Francis spoke of "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. And this also applies in a certain sense to the broader context of society, and relations between Christians and non-Christians."

Also present at the talks in Rome last week was Bishop Angaelos, of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK. He said that it had been "a historic meeting" at which "the two fathers of these ancient Apostolic Churches committed themselves to working together for unity.

"While centuries have kept us apart, for a variety of reasons, it is clear that continued ecumenical dialogue, and relations over the past decade, have continued to bring us closer."

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