Two popes sat side by side before a crowd of rain-soaked pilgrims in St Peter’s Square in Vatican City yesterday. Source: OSV News.
Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt, was at the Vatican to mark the 50th anniversary of a joint declaration signed by St Paul VI and Pope Shenouda III in 1973 outlining the beliefs shared by their churches.
Before his general audience, Pope Francis embraced Pope Tawadros and kissed his encolpion, an icon Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic bishops wear instead of a pectoral cross.
During the audience, the two publicly exchanged greetings and took turns addressing the crowd.
“Despite the differences in our roots and affiliations, we are united by the love of Christ who dwells within us and the host of our apostle fathers and saints who guide us,” Pope Tawadros said in Arabic. “Let us walk together in life bearing in mind the promise (God) has made to us — eternal life — accompanying and supporting each other with prayers according to this promise.”
Calling for Catholics and Copts to love one another, Pope Tawadros said that “even though we go against the tide of the greedy and selfish world, we have accepted the challenge of love that Christ asks of us, and we will be true Christians, and the world will be more human, because it will know that God is love and that this is his highest name.”
Putting aside his typical weekly catechesis, Pope Francis thanked Pope Tawadros for his visit to Rome and commitment to the “growing friendship” between their churches.
He referred to the 21 Coptic Christian martyrs, who he said, “are also ours,” that were killed by the Islamic State in Libya in 2015, and he asked for their intercession in fostering communion between the two churches. The two popes then jointly blessed the crowd of visitors in St. Peter’s Square.
Pope to pope: Let our churches be united by Christ’s love (By Justin McLellan, OSV News)