Category: Opinion + Coptic affairs
FA: Coptic affairs
A memory to cherish
I still vividly remember that day, 10 May 2013, as if it were yesterday. It was the day where the walls of the Vatican in Rome witnessed the historic meeting between the representatives of two major Churches, the Coptic Orthodox Church founded by St Mark and the Catholic Church founded by St Peter. I consider myself lucky and blessed to have had the opportunity to be a first-hand bserver of this reunion of love.
I arrived at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport one day before the planned meeting. The hotel where I was booked was only a few metres away from the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican. I was breathtaken at the sight of the imposing Vatican dome for the first time. I spent the day exploring Rome and its majestic civilisation.
The following day I was among the small group which was granted the honour of attending the historic reuinion between the two popes in the Apostolic Palace. At 11.30am, Pope Francis received Pope Tawadros in his private office. They greeted each other with a warm, brotherly embrace. I heard a very moved Pope Tawadros tell Pope Francis: “We are extremly blessed and very happy for this reunion. We remeber Christ’s wish a few hours before his Crucifixion, ‘let all be one’”. Following this warm welcome Pope Francis accompanied Pope Tawadros to the adjoining sitting room for a few minutes in a private session. I remember standing with Father Rafik Greiche, head of the press office of the Catholic Church in Egypt, exchanging blissful sentiments and reciting the first verse of Psalm 133, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity”. At this point the doors opened and we were invited to join the two great popes.
The meticulous organisation of the event, and the care given to every detail deeply impressed me.The place emanated with warmth of feeling. Two identical chairs dominated the room; the successors of St Peter and St Mark sat there in such a spirit of humbleness that I felt certain we were on the way to unity.
It was then time for the popes to each give his speech. Both speeches overflowed with love. Pope Tawadros expressed his hopes for a stronger bond between the Coptic and the Catholic Churches. “Let us work together to promote ecumenical dialogue,” he said, “and let world peace be a joint aim we strive to achieve.” Pope Francis stressed that this visit strengthens the bonds of friendship and featernity between the two Churches. He reminded of fruitful dialogues between the two Churches throughout history, which had positive impacts towards the recognition of the same faith in God, the Trinity and the Divinity of the Son of God.
Since Pope Tawadros became patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church in November 2012 we have known him as a figure who exuded love and humbleness. In Rome, I was additionally moved by the warmth, humbelness and sincerity that were clearly written all over Pope Francis. He made our hearts joyous, simply by bestowing on us his peaceful look. At the end of the meting of the two popes exchanged gifts. Among them one given by Pope Tawadros to Pope Francis: a pendant carrying a cross which featured an icon of the Holy Virgin; Pope Francis hung it along his neck and chest right away.
It was then time to go. My heart skipped a beat as both popes passed beside us to the church of the Apostolic Palace, to the tune of Coptic hymns. Pope Tawadros said a prayer of thanksgiving and a prayer for peace. Pope Francis stood next to him in his legendary modesty listening to the Bible being read.
As we left the Vatican I heard Pope Tawadros say, “When Christ comes, will He be greeted with a united or a divided Church?” At this point I understood why we would always remember that day.
Dear Pope Tawadros and dear Pope Francis, may God bless you and protect you. We eagerly look forward to the day when the Bishop of Rome visits us in Egypt.
12 May 2015
Full coverage of the historic visit of Pope Tawadros II to Pope Francis was printed on Page 1 of ++Watani International++, 19 May 2013; and posted on our website: http://en.wataninet.com/coptic-affairs-coptic-affairs/coptic-affairs/pope-francis-meets-pope-tawadros/1889/