On his ten-day visit to Australia, which started 30 August, Pope Tawadros II on Thursday 31 August laid the foundation stone for St Mary, St Cosman and St Demian Coptic Orthodox Church in Kellyville, Sydney. The Pope celebrated Mass in the newly-consecrated church which overflowed with worshippers, and gave all the attendees a gift of a papal key ring to mark his visit. The new church, which will cater to the growing numbers of parishioners and include community facilities, is expected to be completed in five years.
Pope Tawadros also presented gifts to attending politicians and dignitaries, and thanked them for their support of the Coptic Orthodox Church and its congregation, as well as Coptic refugees. Mitchell federal Liberal MP Alex Hawke, Baulkham Hills state Liberal MP David Elliott, Mt Druitt state Labour MP Edmond Atalla, former federal Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock and local councillors Alan Haselden and Dr Peter Gangemi were among those who attended the event.
Blessed be Egypt my people
While in Sydney, the Coptic Pope signed an agreement of cooperation between St Cyril Coptic Orthodox Theological College in Sydney, which was founded in 1982, and Sydney’s prestigious Macquarie University which has to its credit a invaluable Coptic studies conducted in its ancient history department.
Pope Tawadros gave a word in which he spoke of the history of the Coptic Church. “It is a great joy to talk to you about our Mother Church; its roots and the fruits they yielded. The Egyptian Coptic Church has behind it an old history that goes back to the Old Testament and its prophecies; prophecies that were fulfilled in the New Testament.
“The first root is represented by the prophecy in Isaiah 19:19, which came some 700 years before the birth of Christ, and which says: ‘In that day there will be an altar in the midst of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border’. We believe that this altar refers to the Coptic faith cherished in the heart of Egypt, and the Lord’s pillar as the lighthouse that spread this faith.
“This brings me to the second root of the Coptic Church, a root also prophesied by Isaiah in the same chapter, in verse 25: ‘The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people’. Egypt was indeed blessed when it sheltered the Holy Family as it took refuge in our land from the wrath of Herod the King. The Holy Family travelled throughout Egypt from east to west, north to south, and abundantly blessed it.
“As to the third root of our Church, it is St Mark the Apostle and Gospel writer, who brought Christianity to Egypt and from whom we received our Coptic Mass,” Pope Tawadros concluded.
Meeting Coptic youth
Friday 1 September saw the Pope preside over the Holy Mass at St Mary and St Mercurius Church. This was followed by a meeting with 2500 Coptic youth at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre. Organised by Sydney Coptic Diocese, it was the first time the Pope meets the young Copts of Australia.
The meeting included several performances: a documentary on the Pope; choir and acting sketches, and ended with a speech by the Pope who then answered questions posed by the young people.
On 6 September, Pope Tawadros should leave to Melbourne where another Coptic congregation excitedly expects him. Bishop Suriel of Melbourne said he was overjoyed at the prospect of the historic first pastoral visit of His Holiness Pope Tawadros II to Australia. The Pope will officially open the Eporo Tower on Sunday 10 September. “We pray that this holy visit will be a source of blessing and joy for our diocese and all of Australia,” Bishop Suriel said.
4 September 2017