Following a three-day visit to the Netherlands, Pope Tawadros II headed to Geneva in Switzerland last Sunday. There he met the Coptic congregation at St Michael’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Geneva, and delivered a sermon on the Christian marriage. The Pope stressed that the success of Christian marriage related primarily to the warm presence of Christ in the Christian home. He said that Christian family life should be based on love, respect of diversity, candour, and union between the man and wife. This union, he said, existed on the spiritual, emotional, physical, social, and dialogue levels. He also stressed clearly the responsibility of the male head of the family towards his wife and children, and that this responsibility should be exercised, and reciprocated, with gentleness and tenderness. He ended by blessing the congregation whose members were elated at his words.
The following day Pope Tawadros visited the monastery of St Maurice. He was accompanied by Anba Luca Bishop General of France and French speaking Switzerland; and received by the abbot, Bishop Rodi. There the Pope prayed at the shrine of St Maurice, and later presided over Holy Mass. Anba Luca handed Pope Tawadros part of the relics of the saint to take back to Cairo. St Maurice was an Egyptian army officer from Upper Egypt who fought in Europe with the Theban Legion and died there in 305 because he refused to relinquish his Christian faith.
While in Geneva, Pope Tawadros also visited the World Council of Churches (WCC) on Monday 1 September.
In the presence of representatives from ecumenical and international organisations, the Pope participated in morning prayers on 1 September followed by a meeting with staff and a conversation with the WCC Secretary General Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit.
The Coptic Orthodox Church is a founding member church of the WCC since 1948.
In his reflections, Tawadros spoke about historic contributions of the Coptic Orthodox Church, as among them vibrant traditions of spirituality, theological studies and monastic life.
“The Coptic Church is one of the main pillars of Egyptian society,” he said. The Church, he said, owing to growing congregations outside Egypt, has expanded to include 28 parishes in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas. There are more than 300 churches and 10 monasteries around the world, served by more than 400 clerics. The Church has also built a hospital in Kenya, and seven schools and seminaries in different places, as well as two cultural centres in the UK and the Netherlands.
Pope Tawadros said there is “new hope for Egypt” with the adoption of a new constitution in the country. He remembered the June 2013 revolution in Egypt where, he said, “Christians and Muslims with everyone else struggled together to end the dark [Muslim Brotherhood] regime”. He affirmed the long history of peaceful social coexistence between Muslims and Christians in Egypt, despite occasional instances of attacks against Copts.
The Pope expressed concern over migration of Christians from the Middle East. He called it a “dangerous trend” which he said cannot solve problems faced by Christian communities in the region.
The WCC Secretary General expressed his gratitude to Pope Tawadros for his reflections. In his remarks, Rev. Tveit affirmed the commitment of the WCC in solidarity with Christians around the world, particularly those in critical situation like Egypt’s.
He added that the WCC is a global fellowship which brings together churches from the East and the West in a quest for unity, justice and peace.
Rev. Dr Kaisamari Hintikka of the Lutheran World Federation, Dr John Nduna of the ACT Alliance, Pat Gleeson of the ECLOF International, Agnès Arluison-Krüzsely of the Foundation for Assistance to Reformed Protestantism, Dr Stephen Brown of Globethics.net and Christine Houssel of the World Student Christian Federation were also present, as well as representatives of the Association of Churches and Christian Communities of Geneva.
3 September 2014