His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, 118th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark, was honoured with an official Vespers service at the church’s UK headquarters, the Coptic Cathedral of Saint George at Shephalbury Manor.
The event followed a gathering of more than six hundred Coptic youth from across the UK, who listened to a sermon by His Holiness on the theme of ‘the Cross and the joy it brings’.
His Holiness also oversaw a Eucharist service at the cathedral on Sunday.
His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, gave an introductory welcome at the start of the official Vespers service, which was attended by members of the House of Lords, the Diplomatic Corps, the Foreign Commonwealth Office, the Home Office, humanitarian and advocacy organisations, and religious guests.
He said: “You are an inspiration, role model, guide and father, and we thank you for joining us here, and give thanks to God for your continued witness.”
“We are blessed as Coptic Christians, because of the witness of Your Holiness and our sisters and brothers in Egypt. We are blessed because of your goodness, strength, faithfulness, and forgiving nature; and because of the life of Christ that is vibrant and alive in the midst of an often-increasing darkness.”
A message from Prime Minister Theresa May was read during the service, followed by a message from the Rt Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, read by The Right Reverend Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark. His Grace Bishop Angaelos praised His Holiness for the way Coptic Christians in Egypt have braved a series of terror attacks by extremist Muslims in recent times.
His Holiness will now visit Coptic Orthodox parishes across the United Kingdom, officiating liturgical services and performing consecrations, while taking time to engage with parishioners.
The Coptic Church whose largest congregations are in Egypt, has faced a number of deadly terrorist attacks in recent years.
Egypt’s Coptic Christians make up about 10 per cent of the country’s population.
The Coptic church dates from about AD 50 when the evangelist St Mark is said to have visited the – then Roman – province.
Egypt’s Coptic minority has repeatedly complained of discrimination by the nation’s Muslim majority and there have been a number of terror attacks against Coptic Christians in recent years.
The centre in Stevenage sits alongside the Cathedral of Saint George, the only Coptic cathedral in the UK.