2013-05-10 17:13:43

Historic meeting between heads of Catholic and Coptic Orthodox Churches

10 May, 20113 - Pope Francis on Friday met in the Vatican the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt, Pope Tawadros II and his delegation and said that the suffering of Egypt’s Christians is also an ecumenical path that can lead to forgiveness and reconciliation. In the first such meeting between the heads of the Catholic and the Coptic Orthodox Churches in 40 years, Pope Tawadros is in Rome, May 9-13, to mark the anniversary of a declaration for improving ties between the two Churches, signed by Pope Paul VI and Pope Tawadros' predecessor, Pope Shenouda III in May 1973. The Coptic and Catholic Churches split in the fifth century over theocratic differences. Christians who comprise about 10 percent of Egypt's population, complain that since the overthrow of long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak in 2011, discrimination and attacks have increased, especially with the rise of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together,” Pope Francis quoted from the First Letter to Corinthians, hinting at the situation in Egypt. “This is a law of the 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, “ the Pope said. This, he said, 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 forgiveness and reconciliation, with God’s help.
Pope Francis acknowledged that communion between the two Churches may still take a long time, but is optimistic that considerable progress has been made. In re-confirming their common declaration of 40 years ago, he said, they recognize that they are united by one Baptism, of which their common prayer is a special expression, and they long for the day when, in fulfilment of the Lord’s desire, we will be able to communicate from the one chalice. Pope Francis expressed his gratitude to Pope Tawadros for reaching out to members of Egypt's Catholic Church since his election last year. He expressed support for the Coptic Pope’s plan of setting up a “National Council of Christian Churches”, which he said, “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.” The Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt numbers over ten million faithful, plus several million other members living in the diaspora.
Pope Francis talked with Pope Tawadros for some 15 minutes, before meeting the Coptic delegation. At the end of the meeting the two exchanged gifts, shared a moment of prayer and jointly blessed the assembly.

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