Rome (Agenzia Fides) - "I pray that Christ will preserve you in full health and grant you the blessing of a long life". Thus the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II addressed Pope Francis, in his brief speech read in Arabic at the beginning of the General Audience held this morning, Wednesday, May 10, in St. Peter's Square. The Primate of the Coptic Orthodox Church, who is visiting Rome with a delegation from Egypt to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the meeting in the Vatican between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Shenuda III, was invited by Pope Francis to take part in the Wednesday Audience and to read his speech in front of the multitude gathered in a rain-soaked St. Peter's Square. In his speech, Pope Tawadros recalled the meeting between Pope Montini and Patriarch Shenuda, and also recalled the first meeting he had with Pope Francis during his previous visit to Rome, which took place exactly 10 years ago.
Pope Francis, speaking after Pope Tawadros, also recalled that he had invited the Coptic Patriarch to Rome "to celebrate with me the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting between Pope St. Paul VI and Pope Shenouda III in 1973. It was", recalled the Pontiff "the first meeting between a Bishop of Rome and a Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, which culminated in the signing of a memorable joint Christological declaration, exactly on May 10". "In remembrance of this event, His Holiness Tawadros came to see me for the first time on May 10 ten years ago, a few months after his election and mine, and proposed to celebrate every May 10 the "Coptic-Catholic Friendship Day" that we have been celebrating since then.
We call each other on the phone, we send each other greetings and we remain good brothers, we have not quarreled!". Pope Francis thanked the Coptic Patriarch "for his commitment to the growing friendship between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church", and also recalled "the martyrs of the Coptic Church, who are also ours" recalling in particular "the martyrs of the Libyan beach, who became martyrs a few years ago". Due to the adverse weather conditions, Pope Francis decided to postpone the reading of the Catechesis dedicated to St. Francis Xavier, Patron Saint of Catholic missions, to the next General Audience, a further figure to be recalled in the context of the cycle of papal catecheses dedicated to the passion for the proclamtion of the Gospel and apostolic zeal. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 10/5/2023)