Middle East and North Africa

Coptic Pope welcomes Francis to ‘land that pays with blood’

Pope Tawadros welcomed his Roman Catholic counterpart to Egypt at an ecumenical prayer service in St Peter and St Paul’s Church near the cathedral. They prayed together with Coptic Christians and for victims of the twin bomb blast that killed nearly 50 people earlier this month on Palm Sunday.

Pope Tawadros, in an earlier welcome address said Pope Francis had come to “the land that pays every minute a tax of blood to keep its name as the land of peace,” adding that the churches in Egypt, “have lived for 14 centuries in this country, which at times witnessed some disturbances, but these disturbances were as the fire that purifies silver from the impurities,”

He spoke of the resilience of the Coptic church which has gone through a particularly challenging period since December last year. He declared that the tragedy of the church is reflective of the tragedy of a coherent nation which will not be broken.

The Coptic Pope acknowledged Francis’ work in promoting peaceful dialogue and cooperation among churches in the world. Tawadros acknowledged the untiring efforts of Catholic schools and nuns in providing education and their charitable work in Egypt

Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros both signed an agreement on the rules of baptism in the Catholic and Coptic churches. This unifies and recognizes the baptism ritual for both churches. Tawadros gave Francis a gift of a wooden Coptic-style cross. In his statement to the Pontiff, Tawadros said he is looking forward the harmonization of the
celebration of Christmas on the same day for both Coptic and the Catholic churches. The Coptic church celebrates Christmas on January 7, rather than 25th December with the rest of the Christian churches worldwide.

Pope Francis led a Mass for about 25,000 Catholic Christians in Egypt. Excited Catholics carrying yellow balloons filled the Cairo stadium as Pope Francis drove in on a golf cart, waving to the crowds amidst choruses and hymns.

Francis was greeted by children wearing pharaonic head dresses.

The Egyptian government has heightened and tightened its security for this papal visit to avoid any embarrassing security breaches.