On his first pastoral visit, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, 118th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark, has been visiting Coptic Orthodox parishes and meeting with communities across the United Kingdom. Pope Tawadros has also consecrated churches, presided over Liturgies and Vespers services, and addressed hundreds of young people at a Coptic youth gathering.
During his visit, Pope Tawadros II was received by Her Majesty The Queen at Windsor Castle on 9 May. This historic audience with Her Majesty was also attended by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, and the Rt Rev David Conner, Dean of Windsor. During the meeting HH Pope Tawadros II presented Her Majesty with a Coptic icon depicting the ‘Flight to Egypt’ of the Holy Family.
After the audience, Bishop Angaelos said:
“This meeting between Her Majesty and His Holiness is an embodiment of our Coptic Orthodox Church here in Britain, made up of those, many of whom will have roots in Egypt, who still feel connected to Egypt, but are very integrated as British Copts. I am personally thankful for this meeting that reinforces this composite and naturally organic identity at the highest level of our Church and nations.”
Shortly after meeting with Her Majesty The Queen, Pope Tawadros was received by His Excellency Mr Nasser Kamel, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United Kingdom, at a dinner and reception at the Egyptian Embassy in London. The reception was attended by Coptic clergy and laity, as well as the wider British Egyptian community.
In the days following, Pope Tawadros was the Guest of Honour at a lunch in the Palace of Westminster, hosted by The Rt Revd the Lord Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, who spoke in his address about the witness of Christians in the Middle East, saying:
“…we feel deeply united with you and your people in sufferings that you experience, and we pray for you very much. I know that connection extends beyond those who would call themselves Christians, to a solidarity of humanity with you and your people and a huge respect for, to quote another virtue from the Bible, the ‘patient endurance’ that you always express when these difficulties occur and your words of peace.”
The lunch was attended by members of the House of Lords, ecumenical guests and members of the Coptic Orthodox clergy and community in the United Kingdom. Following the lunch, Pope Tawadros laid a wreath at the Recording Angel memorial in Westminster Hall, in honour of PC Keith Palmer, who lost his life in the Westminster attack on 22 March 2017.
During his stay Pope Tawadros received individuals and groups at The Coptic Orthodox Church Centre in Hertfordshire, including the Coptic Medical Board and the Coptic Partnership for Relief and Development, both established by Bishop Angaelos with members of the Coptic community to ensure the highest level of collaboration for those most in need in Egypt. Among his meetings, His Holiness also received His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan.
On Friday 12 May, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II was received by The Most Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, at a historic meeting in Lambeth Palace. During the visit, Pope Tawadros met privately with the Archbishop, later joining the rest of the Coptic delegation and ecumenical guests, when addresses were delivered. His Holiness signed the official guestbook with the words ‘Love Never Ends’, and presented a Coptic icon of the ‘Flight to Egypt’ of the Holy Family to Archbishop Justin.
During his address, Pope Tawadros II thanked the Archbishop for his hospitality and said:
“We are grateful to God for the co-operation, dialogue, and Christian love between our two Churches. We are hopeful and pray for more and more Christian unity globally and we believe it is possible through the love of God, and through the ecumenical blood of all Christian martyrs.”
In his address to His Holiness, His Grace the Archbishop commented on the resilient example of Coptic Christians in Egypt, saying:
“The experience of the Coptic people in Egypt is not only an example to the Body of Christ around the world, but also a profound inspiration. The courage of your people – their constant faith, their steadfastness, their long endurance – brings to life those words we read so often in the epistles of Saint Paul, and we are truly grateful and give thanks to God for you and for your people.”
Following the meeting at Lambeth Palace, the two Church leaders and their delegations, attended Evensong at Westminster Abbey at the invitation of the Dean of Westminster Rev Dr John Hall, walking side by side during the procession, and praying together at the shrine of St Edward the Confessor.
Evensong was followed by a general meeting led by His Holiness the Pope, with members of the Coptic community, in St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey. The Pope gave a sermon and presented gifts to members of the community. Before the meeting, Pope Tawadros was officially welcomed by the Dean of Westminster who spoke of his solidarity with the plight of Christians in the Middle East and in Egypt, and spoke of unity, saying:
“The cause of unity between Christians is something which is dear to us and immensely precious. It is wonderful that in this 21st Century, relations between all the Churches, develop so strongly and warmly together, and Your role, Your Holiness, in convening leaders of the Churches including Pope Francis and others has been an example to all of us.”
On 17 May, His Holiness the Pope, accompanied by Bishop Angaelos, was received by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales at Clarence House. In December 2013, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales was received by Bishop Angaelos at The Coptic Centre in Stevenage for the first time, as part of a series of visits in which he sought to highlight the plight of Christians in the Middle East. His Royal Highness continues to be supportive in response to the suffering of Christian and minority groups in the region.
At the commencement of the visit, an official vespers service was held in his honour at the Coptic Cathedral of Saint George in Hertfordshire. The event was held on 6 May 2017, and attended by members of the House of Lords, the Diplomatic Corps, the Foreign Commonwealth Office, the Home Office, humanitarian and advocacy organisations, and various ecumenical and inter-religious guests.
Commenting on the visit as a whole, His Grace Bishop Angaelos said:
“It has been a blessing for the Coptic community here in the United Kingdom to engage with their shepherd. It was also an opportunity for His Holiness to meet his flock and to encounter some of the work being done under the various ministries within the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom.
I am thankful that the visit was fruitful and gave His Holiness an overview of the diverse and dynamic role of Coptic Christians across Britain who endeavour to live faithfully according to their Christian principles, while being fully integrated into their surrounding community. I am also pleased that we had the opportunity to learn from the example of peaceful yet powerful resilience that His Holiness and our brothers and sisters in Egypt demonstrate on a daily basis.”