Pope Tawadros left Cairo on the morning of Tuesday 9 May 2023, heading to the Vatican.
At Cairo International Airport, the Pope was received by Minister of Civil Aviation Muhammad Abbas; and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Cairo International Airport Magdy Ishaq; accompanied by senior officials.
The Pope arrived at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport in the afternoon. Cairo’s Ambassador to the Vatican, Mahmoud Talaat, was on hand to receive him, together with Bassam Rady, Egypt’s Ambassador to Italy; Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, and Yu’annis Lahzi Gayid, Coptic Catholic former personal secretary to Pope Francis.
Accompanying Pope Tawadros on his visit to Rome are a number of Coptic Orthodox clergy: Anba Pafnutius, Metropolitan of Samalout and Tahal-Aameda; Anba Danial, Metropolitan of Maadi and Secretary-General of the Holy Synod; Anba Yulius, Bishop-General of Old Cairo and the Bishopric for Public, Ecumenical, and Social Services BLESS; Father Kyrillos Anba Bishoy, head of the Popal office; and journalist Michael Victor, Press Attaché. They will be joined by Coptic Orthodox bishops from Europe and the US: Bishop Barnaba of Turin and Rome; Bishop Angaelos of London; Bishop Kyrillos, Bishop-General of Los Angeles; and Bishop Antonio of Milan.
The current meeting between Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros is their fourth.
The first took place on 10 May 2013 in Rome; the date 10 May was declared a Day of Brotherly Love between the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church, and has since been celebrated every year.
The second meeting was in April 2017 during a visit by Pope Francis to Cairo, and the third was in July 2018 during an ecumenical gathering held by the Catholic Church in Bari, Italy, where prelates from various Churches prayed together for peace in the Middle East.
Pope Tawadros’s visit to the Vatican marks not only ten years on his first meeting with Pope Francis in Rome, but also commemorates 50 years on the first meeting between a Catholic Pope, Paul VI, and a Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, Pope Shenouda III, since the great schism that divided the Churches at Chalcedon in 451. In 1973 visit, Pope Paul VI and Pope Shenouda III made history when they signed a joint declaration, a Christological agreement which put an end to the controversy born around the Council of Chalcedon. This joint declaration of 1973 underlined that the faithful indeed shared the same faith in Jesus Christ, “perfect God with respect to his divinity, perfect man with respect to his humanity”, also the seven sacraments, veneration of the Holy Virgin Mary and the saints, the church as founded by the apostles, and the importance of ecumenism.
Tomorrow 10 May, a Wednesday, will be the day of the weekly general audience of Pope Francis. Pope Tawadros will be appearing alongside Pope Francis at the general audience at St Peter’s Square, where he will speak. It will be the first time another Pope speaks with Pope Francis at a general audience; in 2008, Armenian Catholicos Karekin II was with Pope Benedict XVI but did not speak.
While yet in Cairo, Pope Tawadros had said that his visit to the Vatican will last for three days, concluding on 12 May. He said that, apart from participation in Wednesday’s general audience with Pope Francis, the visit will include a meeting between the delegations of the two Churches, and also ecumenical prayers.
On 14 May, Pope Tawadros is scheduled to offer Coptic Orthodox Divine Liturgy in the Catholic Archbasilica of St John Lateran in Rome, another first: a non-Catholic celebrating Mass in the Pope’s cathedral.
Father Martin Browne, an official at the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, talked to the National Catholic Register on April 21 saying that “the Liturgy has been arranged following appropriate consultation. The Catholic Church recognises the Orthodox Church’s sacraments as valid, even if still in schism.
“Pope Tawadros will celebrate at a specially constructed altar, not the main altar of the basilica. The Liturgy will be for the Coptic faithful in Italy.
“The visit of their patriarch is a very important event for Copts in Italy and many of the faithful are expected to attend. Up to 3,000 are expected, which is far more than could be accommodated in Pope Tawadros’ own [Coptic Orthodox] church in Rome.”
Pope Tawadros’s visit to Rome will conclude on 14 May, following which he is expected to visit the Copts in Milano then head to Austria.
9 May 2023
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