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s2smodern

On the 7th May 2019, the Coptic Catholic Patriarch, His Beatitude Ibrahim Ishak met with the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, Pope Tawadros II, at the Jesuit Retreat House on the outskirts of the city of Alexandria, in Egypt. Together they celebrated “Day of Brotherly Love”. The idea of this celebration began in 2013 with an invitation launched by Pope Tawadros II on the 10th of the same year, during his visit to Pope Francis at the Vatican. His desire was that the 10th May be the day of friendship and love between the two Churches, given that on the 10th May 1973 Pope Shenouda III, Pope Tawadros’s predecessor, had visited the Vatican and met Pope Paul VI. This was the first meeting between the heads of the two Churches, the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Pope Tawadros’s visit was his first to a foreign country, just a few months after Pope Francis had been elected, and for the both it was their first meeting with the head of another Church.

In 2015, two young men, one Orthodox and one Catholic came up with the idea of calling an unofficial meeting of friendship between the two Churches, using the occasion of an exhibition of Coptic and Egyptian icons as an excuse. Pope Tawadros gladly accepted and this first meeting took place in the small Jesuit Church attached to the Jesuit residence and cultural centre in Alexandria. In 2016, Pope Tawadros invited the Coptic Catholic Patriarch and members of the Catholic Church to the Monastery of Anba Bishoi in Wadi Natroun, one of the old monasteries in the Egyptian desert. In 2017 Pope Francis visited Egypt. The plan was that the visit coincide with the date of the 10th May, but Pope Tawadros had to traveal at that dateand so the meeting took place around the end of April. There was a beautiful meeting at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, with an ecumenical prayer attended by other Orthodox and Catholic Patriarchs, among them the Byzantine Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomeos of Constantinople. The next meeting of the two Popes, in 2018, was in Bari, Italy, on the occasion of the ecumenical prayer of the Oriental Churches for peace.

This year’s meeting renewed the style of 2015. Once more it was the Coptic Catholic Patriarch who invited Pope Tawadros and members of the Coptic Orthodox Church to the meeting at the Jesuit Retreat House in Maryout. This was the occasion also to bless the new church of the retreat house and have an ecumenical prayer in it. Then the two Popes planted an olive tree as a symbol of peace and dialogue. There was also a discussion in small groups about various themes such as the environment, the influence of the Church on modern society and dialogue. The spirit was unofficial and very friendly, living up to the title of the day: “brotherly love”, and clearly people were enjoying each other’s presence. All those present admired Pope Tawadros’s simplicity and sincerity. Pope Francis sent a special letter for the occasion, even though at the time he was on one of his journeys abroad. The meeting ended with some refreshments.

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s2smodern