VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- On the evening of his first day in Egypt, February
24, Pope John Paul II met with the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church,
Pope Shenouda III, at the prelate's residence near the cathedral of St.
Mark in Cairo.
After a warm welcoming ceremony, at which a choir of monks performed and a number of Orthodox bishops assisted, the Holy Father spoke privately with the Orthodox leader. About 200 people gathered outside the residence of Pope Shenouda, behind barricades set up to restrain the crowd, in order to join in welcoming the Pontiff.
In his public remarks, Pope Shenouda said that it was appropriate for the Pope to travel to Egypt-- the country which, according to the Bible, is the first place to which the infant Jesus traveled. The Coptic Orthodox leader also praised the Pope for his work on behalf of peace, and especially for his insistence on an international statute to protect the status of Jerusalem.
Metropolitan Amba Bishoi, the secretary-general of the Holy Synod for the Coptic Orthodox Church, said that "our people are happy to see a strengthening of the cooperation between Rome and Alexandria." Despite many centuries of theological disputes, he added, the Catholic and Coptic churches have "persevered in dialogue." Metropolitan Bishop-- who was one of the many representatives from other Christian churches who participated in an ecumenical ceremony in Rome on January 18-- said that the Christian bodies could work together for peace.