Pope Francis I and Egypt’s Tawadros II: A tale of two popes and preserving Mideast Christianity

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Click photo to download. Caption: Pope Francis I with Cristina Fernández de<br /><br />
Kirchner, president of Argentina, on March 18, 2013. Credit: Casa Rosada<br /><br />
via Wikimedia Commons.

By Sean Savage/JNS.org

Click photo to download. Caption: Pope Francis I with Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, president of Argentina, on March 18, 2013. Credit: Casa Rosada via Wikimedia Commons.

As
newly elected leaders of their respective Christian faiths, Pope Francis I and
Egypt’s Coptic Pope Tawadros II face a wide array of internal and external
challenges. One presides over a global church of 1.2 billion, the other a
smaller Mideast church of 12-18 million. But a primary challenge for both is
the fate of Middle East Christianity, which is on the verge of extinction in
the region where the religion was born.

Early
in their papacies, both Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros have shown a willingness
to break from convention and challenge the status quo. But as leaders of
ancient churches with two very distinct sets of issues, they also must put
aside past doctrinal and theological issues to work together to confront the
challenges of preserving their faith and bringing peace and stability to the
Middle East.

“The [Catholic]
church has had an abiding concern of all people and in particular of people who
are persecuted for their faith,” Stephen Colecchi—director of the Office of
International Justice and Peace for the United States Conference of Catholic
Bishops (USCCB), an assembly of all active and retired U.S. Catholic
leaders—told JNS.org.

During a historic
meeting between the two popes in May, Pope Francis assured Pope Tawadros of his
support in the face of persecution of Egypt Christians, citing the New
Testament verse, “If one member suffers, all
suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians
12:26).

“This
is a law of the Christian life, and in this sense we can say that there is also
an ecumenism of suffering: Just as the blood of the martyrs was a seed of
strength and fertility for the Church, so too the sharing of daily sufferings
can become an effective instrument of unity,” Pope Francis said.

Click photo to download. Caption: Austrian politician Michael Spindelegger<br /><br />
with Pope Tawadros II of Egypt this June. Credit: Treffen mit<br /><br />
Papst-Patriarch Tawadros II.

Click photo to download. Caption: Austrian politician Michael Spindelegger with Pope Tawadros II of Egypt this June. Credit: Treffen mit Papst-Patriarch Tawadros II.

Despite Christianity
being the largest religion in the world with 2.2 billion followers, according
to Pew Research Center, it is also one of the most persecuted faiths. According
to Open Doors, a non-denominational Christian human rights group, more than 100
million Christians are persecuted worldwide, with eight of the top 10 countries
for persecution of Christians being Muslim-majority states.

The Roman Catholic
Church considers itself the world’s “one true church” and the only church to which
Jesus gave explicit authority through his apostle Peter, who later became the
first pope, according to the Catholic interpretation of the Christian Gospels.

The modern Catholic
Church is actually composed of the Latin Church, where the vast majority of the
world’s 1.2 billion Catholics belong, and the Eastern Catholic Church, composed
of smaller churches scattered throughout Eastern …read more
Source: JNS.org

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