Vatican City, May 16, 2023— In a momentous occasion, His Holiness Pope Francis received His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, the Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark, during the general audience held before thousands of people at the Vatican.
This day holds great historical significance for the popes of Alexandria. On May 10, 1959, His Holiness Pope Kyrillos VI was ordained as the 116th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark. On May 10, 1973, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III met with His Holiness Pope Paul the VI at the Vatican, marking the first time in 15 centuries that the Pope of Alexandria visited the Holy See. This day also commemorates the tenth anniversary of His Holiness Pope Tawadros II’s visit to the Vatican in 2013, during which the two popes declared May 10 as the Day of Brotherly Love.
The official delegation of the Coptic Orthodox Church accompanying His Holiness Pope Tawadros II included His Eminence Metropolitan Paphnutius, His Eminence Metropolitan Daniel, His Grace Bishop Barnaba, His Grace Bishop Angelos, His Grace Bishop Julius, His Grace Bishop Antonio, His Grace Bishop Kyrillos, and Fr. Kyrillos Anba Bishoy.
Before the general audience, Pope Francis embraced Pope Tawadros and kissed his panagia, the Orthodox icon of the Holy Virgin Mary worn by bishops.
During the audience, the two publicly exchanged greetings and took turns addressing the crowd.
In a historic moment, Pope Tawadros addressed the general audience, stating, “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 Apostolic Fathers and saints, which surrounds and guides us.”
Putting aside his typical weekly catechesis, Pope Francis responded with gratitude, saying, “I thank you from the heart for your commitment to fostering a growing friendship between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church.”
The following day, on May 11, His Holiness Pope Francis welcomed His Holiness Pope Tawadros II in a private audience at the Apostolic Palace. After exchanging messages related to the ongoing dialogue between their respective churches, Pope Tawadros offered a precious box containing clothing and bands from the 21 Martyrs of Libya. These bands hold fragments of the flesh and blood of the martyrs. In response, Pope Francis announced that a special chapel would be dedicated in their honor, and the 21 Martyrs would be included in the Roman Martyrology, the book-length calendar of saints read during the Catholic mass. Pope Francis also bestowed relics of St. Katherine of Alexandria upon Pope Tawadros.
Following a brief prayer in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel, His Holiness Pope Tawadros was warmly received at the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity by His Eminence Cardinal Koch.
The unprecedented honor continued as His Holiness Pope Tawadros was welcomed at the papal basilica of Saint John in Laterano on Saturday and Sunday. This basilica is one of the most important in the Catholic Church, as it serves as the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. As the first basilica built following the decree of Emperor Constantine in 313.
After these momentous events, His Holiness Pope Tawadros continued his pastoral visit to Milan.