On Sunday 10 May, marking the Day of Friendship between the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church, celebrated yearly on this date, Pope Francis sent a message to Pope Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church. This Day commemorates annually the meeting held in Rome on 10 May 2013 between Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros, in the wake of the historical encounter between Saint Pope Paul VI and Pope Shenouda III on the same day in 1973.
In his message, Pope Francis reflected that the “bond of friendship and affection between our Churches calls to mind the well–known “Icon of friendship” depicting the Lord placing his hand on the shoulder of his friend, the holy monk Mena of Egypt. Indeed, our bond is rooted in the friendship of Jesus Christ which all his followers”.
Also marking the Day of Friendship, the Holy Father made a telephone call to Pope Tawadros expressing his closeness in prayer. At the end of the conversation, Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros exchanged the mutual commitment to pray for God’s mercy on the world, on the Church and on all the faithful.
They also affirmed their participation in the Day of prayer, fasting and works of charity for the end of the coronavirus pandemic, to be held on Thursday 14 May with the involvement of the heads of the world’s religions. This initiative of the ‘Higher Committee of Human Fraternity’ comprising worldwide religious leaders has been inspired by the document signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of al–Azhar, Ahmed al–Tayyeb, on 4 February 2019.
For the occasion, Cardinal Kurt Koch also sent a message to His Excellency Barnaba El Soryani, Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Italy, in which he underlines in particular that faced with the many challenges posed by the modern world, Copts and Catholics can bear witness together to the love of the risen Christ and can make the Word of the Gospel resonate.
Christ the Saviour and Abbot Mena (seventh century), known as the "friendship icon", originally from the Monastery of Baouit in Egypt (now in the Louvre, Paris).