Media and Communications Office
On Thursday 7 September, a police motorcade blocked off Swanson street for the arrival of His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, the Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St Mark. The Coptic Pope is in Australia for a 10-day tour to schools and churches in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.
One of only two sitting Popes in the world and leader of 20 million Coptic Orthodox Christians, Pope Tawadros II is known to his people as the ‘Pope of Hope’ for his work towards love and peace between all people. Australia is home to 120,000 Coptic Orthodox Christians, with 20,000 in Melbourne.
His Holiness met with Lord Mayor of Melbourne Robert Doyle AC to celebrate the vibrant role of the Coptic community in Melbourne ahead of the official opening of the landmark Coptic cultural hub Eporo Tower on LaTrobe street. The $90 million dollar development is officially opened on Sunday, 10 September. ‘I’m so happy to be here in Melbourne,’ said the pope. ‘I think this city is a city of harmony between many cultures.’
‘Cultural and religious diversity is part of what makes Melbourne the World’s Most Liveable city,’ said Lord Mayor Robert Doyle AC. ‘It’s an honour to be part of an historic moment for this ancient religious community who are officially opening Eporo Tower in the presence of their Pope.’
To the Coptic community in the Melbourne, Pope Tawadros advised: ‘Keeping the Coptic Egyptian traditions is very important. I ask for all of us to fight for the right to live according to the bible and the commandments and to live according to traditions. As a Christian church generally, we must walk according to the bible. The bible is our constitution. The bible is our reference. The bible is our index. This is important for us.’
Pope Tawadros II has been working towards Christian unity with the Catholic Church, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Anglican Church. He has also endeavoured to foster a sense of unity between Christians and Muslims in Egypt.
Earlier this year, during Pope Francis’ trip to Egypt, he met with the Pope Tawadros II and in a common declaration, signed by both leaders, they recognised each other’s sacrament of baptism. The issue of baptism has been a source of tension in the dialogue between Copts and Catholics, debating whether a second baptism is necessary for Christians who convert from one Church to another.
During his time in Australia, Pope Tawadros II will also meet the Prime Minister, Governor-General, and the Opposition Leader.Over the next seven days, the Pope will also visit local Coptic churches, monasteries and a school while in Melbourne.
Currently the Coptic Church makes up the biggest community of Christians in the Northern Africa and the Middle East. The Copts have recently been in the media spotlight, having been targeted and attacked by Islamist groups in Egypt including ISIS. In April, jihadists linked to Islamic State group bombed two Egyptian Christian churches, killing 45.
Tradition holds that the Coptic Church was established by Saint Mark in the middle of the 1st century making it one of the oldest Christian churches.