The Vatican on Wednesday witnessed two popes share the limelight in St Peter’s Square – Pope Francis and His Holiness Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Tawadros, dressed in black robes, was the guest of honour at Francis’ general audience in a rainy St. Peter’s Square.
Francis, the 86-year-old head of the global Catholic Church, embraced the Egyptian patriarch in St Peter’s Square before the pair took to the stage, where they both addressed the rain-soaked crowds.
The two sat near each other and delivered a joint blessing at the end.
Tawadros, 70, is at the Vatican to mark the 50th anniversary of the first meeting between a Roman pope and a Coptic pope which took place between their respective predecessors, Shenouda III and Paul VI, in 1973.
“My friend and brother Tawadros, thank you for accepting my invitation,” Francis said.
“I sincerely thank you for your commitment to the growing friendship between the Coptic Orthodox and Catholic Churches.”
In his greeting to Tawadros, Francis recalled the 20 Egyptian Copts who were kidnapped and beheaded on a beach in Libya by Islamic State in 2015.
“Martyrs of the Coptic Church are ours too,” Francis, 86, said.
Coptic Orthodox Christians trace their origins to St. Mark the Apostle.
Tawadros had a private meeting with Francis on Thursday and visited the Vatican department that promotes Christian unity.