“We wish that the entire world realised that Christianity is deeply rooted in the Middle-Eastern region, so it’s important for us that you understand our traditions and our chore principles. Please, do not interfere with the home affairs of our Countries. We can solve our problems in the spirit of love, dialogue, and understanding.” It’s the “message” that the Patriarchs of the entire Middle Eastern region, due to convene in Bari, wish to transmit to the world and to the international community on behalf of their Countries and peoples, as declared to SIR by Pope Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, ahead of the Day for Reflection and Prayer for peace in the Middle East. Pope Tawadros is one of the Patriarchs who accepted Pope’s Francis’ invitation.
Your Holiness, why is this meeting so important? What does it represent for this region without peace?
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20). Our coming together is a sign of our love for each other, and this is the most important aspect of our meeting. Knowing that we are there to pray for each other in these difficult times will bring comfort to those who are suffering. Coming together as Church leaders to pray with one voice for all those who are struggling is a great encouragement to those who lost all hopes and it fills our hearts with love and thoughtfulness for others while we intercede for them. The Lord said to us: “Truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18: 19-20), thus
We shall gather in prayer putting aside our wants and seeking the will of God.
What can the “power” of prayer do for a future of reconciliation and peace in the Middle East?
Our Lord has taught us: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). We believe in the power of prayer. Over and above all conflict resolutions, we entrust ourselves to prayer and we trust that the Lord will transform every conflict for our good. Psalm 46 states that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” and, on the same line, we believe and we trust that
Prayer has the greatest power in overcoming our problems, to resolve conflicts and enlighten our future in reconciliation and peace.
The Coptic Orthodox communities were victims of many years of persecution and martyrdom. What is your witness to the world today? Who are the Christians of the Middle East?
The Middle East is the place of birth of Christianity, already since the first century. From our lands it spread across the world. Christians of the Middle East are true witnesses of Christ. Despite the many years of persecution, they remained strong and never feared death in the name of Jesus Christ. Christians of the Middle East have been confronted with different forms of persecution and they always entrusted themselves to prayer. These persecutions have further strengthened the faith of our believers and preserved a steadfast relationship with the Church and with God.
How can the goal of peace be achieved in the difficult situation of the Middle East?
To achieve peace every individual must have achieved a state of inner peace.
Moreover, distorted teachings of hate, fomenting rejection of neighbour, must be banished.
The young generations need to be taught mutual love, acceptance of diversity and life in a community filled with diversity.
You will be visiting Italy. Will you also have the opportunity to meet the Coptic Orthodox communities living in our Country? What would you like to say to them?
In fact I will be celebrating the Holy Mass with the Coptic Orthodox community in Rome on Sunday morning. My message to them is to remember to pray for each other, to be in good spiritual relations with the Church, especially the children.
What will you say to Pope Francis when you will meet him in Bari?
I will thank him for this kind invitation and for having given us the opportunity to come together as heads of the Church. We consider it a positive step embraced by the heart of Our Lord.