Pope Tawadros II has embarked on a four day visit to Rome to meet with his recently elected Catholic counterpart, Pope Francis. The Roman papacy issued a statement in which it called the Coptic Orthodox Church “one of the most important elements in the ecclesial landscape of the Middle East where, in recent times, Christian communities are having to deal with very difficult situations”.
The statement continued by saying “there has been a growing rapprochement between the Christian communities in Egypt,” which has led to the establishment of a council of Christian churches in Egypt.
Tawadros is expected to have an audience with Francis, and on Friday will be received by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and other congregations from the Holy See. Tawadros will visit the tombs of Apostles Peter and Paul and meet with members of the Coptic community in Rome.
The meeting is the first of its kind in 40 years. In 1972 the late Coptic Pope Shenouda III met with Catholic Pope Paul VI in the Vatican, where both signed a “Christological Declaration” of greater dialogue, unity and cooperation between the two denominations.
Tawadros’ meeting comes at a time when Christians in Egypt have fallen victim to sectarian violence. Last month Muslims attacked Saint Mark’s Cathedral and violence against Copts broke out in Al-Khasous.
The violence at Al-Khasous and the cathedral was the worst of its kind since the Maspero Massacre in October 2011, where 23 people died.