Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Orthodox Church has been on a three-week pastoral visit to The Netherlands, Italy, and Austria. He left Cairo on 30 April and, according to the official spokesman of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Father Boulos Halim, is expected back by the beginning of next week. Accompanying the Pope is Anba Macarius, Bishop-General of Minya; Anba Makary, Bishop-General of South Shubra; papal secretary Fr Angaelos Ishaq; and Fr Boulos Halim. The Pope has been meeting with the congregation in the places he visited, consecrated a number of new churches, and chaired the European Coptic Priests Convention in Venice, Italy.
Celebrating the Resurrection together
The papal visit began with Amsterdam where he presided over Holy Mass at the church of Abu-Seifein (St Mercurius) on Saturday 2 May. He gave a sermon on the 50-day period of rejoicing which follows the Sunday of the Resurrection, Easter Sunday, describing them as a 50-day-long Resurrection Day celebration. “This is a time when the Church joyfully marks the Resurrection every day,” Pope Tawadros said. “The Resurrection took mankind from the grief of death to the joy of being freely granted everlasting life. The Resurrection has conquered the Impossible and rendered it futile. The Bible says: ‘Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light’ (Ephesians 5: 14).”
Accompanied by Anba Arsani, Bishop of the Netherlands, Pope Tawadros the following day Sunday 3 May consecrated three altars in the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin in Amsterdam. He explained that the consecration ritual involves thanksgiving prayers, psalms that extol the beauty of the house of the Lord, supplications and prayers of rejoicing, and anointment of the altar with oil.
That same day the Pope was guest of the Coptic youth meeting in Amsterdam. He spoke of a topic he had already broached with Pope Francis, the unification of the date of Easter so that all churches in the world may celebrate the Resurrection on the same day. Pope Tawadros stressed that the date of the celebration of Easter had nothing to do with faith or creed; it was a mere historical predicament. He suggested that, instead of the current date which is different every year and alternates among the Sundays between the first week of April and the first week of May, Easter Sunday would be a fixed date, possibly the third Sunday in April.
Pope Tawadros then moved to Zeeland where, on 5 May, he consecrated the church of the Holy Virgin and Anba Arsanius.
Relics of St Dionysius and St Ambrose
The Pope next stop was Italy where he chaired the two-day European Coptic Priests Convention in Venice on 7 May. The Pope focused on the influence of the good servant of Christ and his faithfulness to the service. He talked of the importance of perseverance and fortitude, as well as leadership with paternal love, in the quest to win souls to Christ.
On Sunday 10 May, the Pope visited Milan where he met Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan. The Cardinal handed Pope Tawadros parts of the relics of the two Milan bishop saints, St Dionysius and St Ambrose. St Dionysius was bishop from 349 to 355, and St Ambrose from 374 to 397. Both were staunch opponents of Arianism, and are hence venerated in Egypt today as defenders of the Orthodox faith.
The next stop on Pope Tawadros’s European visit will be Austria. In reply to a Watani request to obtain the Pope’s programme in Austria, Fr Boulos said: “We’ll send you the news on time”.
11 May 2015