In a spirit of love
The two heads of Churches discussed various matters including contemporary social life, pastoral care, education and issues of morality, while also touching on the current events affecting both Egypt and Russia.
They talked about the relationship between the two Churches, ecumenical dialogue and the situation of Christians in the Middle East. Patriarch Kirill stressed the relevance of dialogue between the two Churches, which he said began in 1985 but was interrupted. He expressed his concern at the violence against Christians in Syria and Iraq and the Middle East.
Pope Tawadros spoke of the great heritage of spirituality and monastic tradition within the Russian Orthodox Church and commented on its contemporary role and influence. He said that: “Collaboration between our Churches will be of great value to our people, both in Egypt and Russia, and a symbol of proactive unity to the whole world.”
The two popes decided to form a joint bilateral committee that would be concerned with proposing a plan for regular dialogue and collaboration between the two Churches on the spiritual life, pastoral care, education and social ministry. Bishop Serapion of Los Angeles and Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations in Moscow will preside over the committee.
Bishop Angaelos said: “This has been a very positive meeting and was conducted in a spirit that sincerely looks for collaboration and deeper relationships. We pray that this spirit be conveyed to our faithful and that it may be replicated in all of our ecumenical and inter-Church relationships.”
Pope Tawadros, accompanied by the Coptic Orthodox delegation and Mahmoud al-Badry, Egypt’s Ambassador to the Russian Federation, was received by the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow. The Foreign Minister said that the Coptic Pope’s visit to Moscow was a historic one because, with respect to all history and previous visits, it was the first visit by a Coptic Orthodox Pope to what is now the Russian Federation. “We welcome you, while at the same time recognising the great role of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt and the Middle East.”
Possibly, a Coptic church in Russia
Pope Tawadros presided over Holy Mass at the Armenian Church of St Catherine in Saint Petersburg, a church which dates back to 1708. During his sermon he talked about “living with Christ” and the unending joy He gives. The Pope met members of the Coptic community in Russia and Fr Thomas Ava Mina who is stationed there to look after their spiritual needs. The Church in Cairo, Pope Tawadros said, was considering the idea of establishing a Coptic church in Russia to serve the community there.
Touring churches and monasteries
Throughout his 10-day stay, Pope Tawadros visited a number of Russian Orthodox churches and monasteries. He started with the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, on the northern bank of the Moskva River, a few blocks southwest of the Kremlin. With an overall height of 103 metres (338 ft), it is the tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world. The current church is the second to stand on this site. The original church, built during the 19th century, took more than 40 years to build and was destroyed in 1931 during the communist rule of Joseph Stalin. The demolition was supposed to make way for a colossal Palace of the Soviets that was never built, so the church was reconstructed in the 1990s on the same site. The original church was the scene of the 1882 world premiere of the famous 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky, written in 1880 to commemorate Russia’s defence against Napoleon’s Grande Armée in 1812. It debuted under a tent near the then unfinished cathedral which also memorised the 1812 defence of Russia. The 1812 Overture is best known for its climactic volley of canon fire, ringing chimes, and brass fanfare finale.
The Pope’s tour took him to the Donskoy Monastery founded in 1591 to mark Moscow’s deliverance from Khan Kazy-Girey’s invasion. Commanding a highway to the Crimea, the monastery was intended to defend southern approaches to the Moscow Kremlin.
The Pope paid a visit to the Intercession (Pokrovsky) convent in Moscow, known to have stood there since 1635. “It is good to exchange notes on the monastic tradition in our two Churches,” Pope Tawadros said. He extended an invitation to the convent’s Mother Superior to visit Egypt’s convents.