Ecumenical move: Pope allows Egyptian Coptic leader to teach in his place

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By Mark Ellis —

Patriarch and Pope (photo: Mekary/Aleteia)

Pope Francis did not deliver his traditional Wednesday morning teaching to the crowd gathered at St. Peter’s Square on May 10th, but allowed the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church to teach in his place.

Patriarch Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, spoke to those assembled as a sign of “friendship” between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, according to a report by Aleteia.

“Under a light rain, the Pope made his traditional tour in the popemobile to greet the pilgrims who came to listen to him. But before going to his seat, he went to meet Patriarch Tawadros II at the foot of St. Peter’s Basilica. Smiling, the two religious leaders embraced each other, before the Argentinean Pope kissed Tawadros’ pectoral cross – as he often does when he meets an Orthodox representative, as a sign of brotherhood,” according to Aleteia.

The Pope and the Patriarch sat down in identical seats on the platform, and for the first time since initiating the weekly teaching, the Pope allowed a guest to speak.

The Coptic patriarch previously visited Rome in 2013, and Francis made a trip to Egypt in 2017.

“Despite the differences in our roots and belongings, we are united by the love of Christ that dwells in us,” the Patriarch said.

He referred to Egypt, a land evangelized by St. Mark and from which “Christian monasticism spread and established itself with its saints, Anthony, Macarius and Pachomius, inspiring the school of Alexandria, a beacon of theology in history.”

“I pray that Christ preserves you in full health and grants you the blessing of a long life,” the Coptic Patriarch added.

Pope Francis recalled celebrating the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Shenouda III, the first between a bishop of Rome and a patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

This meeting was marked by “the signing of a memorable Christological declaration” on May 10, 1973, which ended the controversy surrounding the Council of Chalcedon of 451, which led to a rupture between Rome and many Eastern Churches. The declaration affirmed that the faithful share the same faith in Christ, true God and true man, according to Aleteia.

“In memory of this event, Tawadros came to see me for the first time on May 10 — 10 years ago, a few months after his election and mine, and proposed to celebrate every May 10 a ‘Day of Coptic-Catholic Friendship,’” added the Argentine pontiff.

“We have celebrated every year since that time,” the Pope said. “We call each other on the phone, send greetings, and remain good brothers, we do not quarrel!”

The Pope said he was praying for “the important meetings” that will take place in Rome, “and in particular our personal conversations.”

On May 11, the Patriarch will be received by the Pope in a private audience with his delegation. The two church leaders are also expected to have a time of prayer together.