VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis has confirmed to all Coptic Christians his “unfailing friendship in Christ,” and pledged engagement for “full visible communion” between the two churches.
The leader of the Catholic Church made the commitment in a message on the nineth Coptic-Catholic Friendship Day to Tawadros II, the pope of Alexandria and patriarch of the See of St. Mark, who lives in Egypt.
Francis expressed his “heartfelt gratitude for the spiritual bonds uniting the See of Peter and the See of Mark. May we continue our pilgrimage of Christian fraternity, especially in preparation for next year’s celebration of the 10th anniversary of our memorable meeting in Rome and of the 50th anniversary of the historic encounter between Pope Paul VI and Pope Shenouda III.”
Tawadros II met with Francis in the Vatican on May 8, 2013. That was the second gathering of popes in Italy in 1,500 years.
The last visit of a Coptic pope to the Vatican occurred on May 10, 1973, when then-Pope Shenouda III and then-Pope Paul VI signed a Christological declaration to initiate ecumenical dialogue between the two Christian churches.
Francis told Tawadros II that “friendship is the surest way to achieve unity” between Christians, and wished to continue “the journey towards full visible communion.”
“As we approach the Feast of Pentecost, I pray that the Holy Spirit will unite us ever more and bestow his gifts of consolation upon our suffering human family, especially in these days of pandemic and war.”
Unofficial figures estimate the percentage of Copts in Egypt at 10 to 15 percent of the population. The Coptic Orthodox Church has stated it has 20 to 25 million members.