“May we continue to advance together on our journey towards the same Eucharistic table, and grow in love and reconciliation.”
Four years ago, on May 10, 2013, Pope Francis and Tawadros II met for the first time at the Vatican. Their meeting recalled the historic encounter, 40 years earlier (on May 10, 1973), between Pope Paul VI, Bishop of Rome, and Shenouda III, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, after centuries of separation between the two Churches.
During that historic meeting, Paul VI and Patriarch Shenouda III signed a joint declaration, “in accordance with [their] apostolic traditions transmitted to [their] Churches and preserved therein,” affirming their common faith in the Triune God; the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ; the seven Sacraments; the perpetual virginity of Blessed Mary, the Theotokos; the veneration of relics; the intercession of the angels and saints; and the second coming of Christ.
May 10 has therefore become known as the day of friendship between Coptic Orthodox and Catholics.
In his 2017 Message, Pope Francis thanks the Coptic patriarch for their “moving meeting and common prayer as brothers in Christ,” during his recent apostolic visit to Egypt.
Here below is the official English text of Pope Francis’ letter to His Holiness Tawadros II.
Message of Pope Francis to Tawadros II of Alexandria,
Patriarch of the See of St. Mark
After my visit to Egypt and the blessed encounter with Your Holiness in Cairo, and recalling the fourth anniversary of our fraternal meeting in Rome on May 10, 2013, I take this opportunity to offer my prayerful best wishes for your peace and health, as well as my joy and gratitude for the spiritual bonds uniting the See of Peter and the See of Mark.
I once more express my profound appreciation for your hospitality and for our moving meeting and common prayer as brothers in Christ. I am especially grateful that we have strengthened our baptismal unity in the body of Christ by declaring together “that we, with one mind and heart, will seek sincerely not to repeat the baptism that has been administered in either of our Churches for any person who wishes to join the other.” Our bonds of fraternity “challenge us to intensify our common efforts to persevere in the search for visible unity in diversity, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
Along this path we are sustained by the powerful intercession and example of the martyrs. May we continue to advance together on our journey towards the same Eucharistic table, and grow in love and reconciliation.
I assure Your Holiness of my continued prayers for you, and for peace in Egypt and the Middle East. In this Easter season I pray that the Holy Spirit, the strength and tenderness of God, may fill our hearts with his grace and kindle in them the fire of his love. May the Spirit of peace bestow on us an increase of hope, friendship and harmony.
With these sentiments, on this special occasion which has rightly become known as the day of friendship between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, I exchange with Your Holiness a fraternal embrace of peace in Christ our Lord.
From the Vatican, 10 May 2017
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