Pope Tawadros II will visit the Vatican on 11 May and meet with Roman Catholic Pope Francis. It will be the Coptic pope’s first overseas trip since his papacy began in November.
Pope Tawadros will leave Cairo on 9 May, according to state-owned Al-Ahram, and plans to visit some Coptic Orthodox parishes in Europe during his trip. The invitation was extended by Apostolic Nuncio to Egypt Archbishop Jean-Paul Gobel.
The meeting between the two popes will occur 40 years after Pope Shenouda III visited the Vatican in 1973 and met with Catholic Pope Paul VI. At the time the visit was the first of its kind in more than 1,500 years. The Coptic Orthodox Church, along with others, disagreed over the nature of Jesus in the Council of Chalcedon in 451, creating a lasting schism.
Popes Shenouda and Paul signed a historic common declaration during the 1973 visit. The document highlights the important dogmatic commonalities between the two churches.
“We humbly recognise that our Churches are not able to give more witness to this new life in Christ because of existing divisions which have behind them centuries of difficult history,” reads the document. “In spite of [differences], however, we are rediscovering ourselves as Churches with a common inheritance.”
The declaration also announced the formation of a joint commission of representatives from both churches to conduct studies in church tradition, history, and theology.
Relations between the Coptic and Catholic churches improved after that visit. During his visit to Cairo in 2000, Pope John Paul II met with Pope Shenouda III.
Both popes have only recently become the heads of their respective churches, as Pope Tawadros is five months into his papacy and Pope Francis became the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church last month.