Participating in the Holy Mass celebrated by Pope Francis this morning at 7 o’clock in the Domus Sanctae Marthae Chapel was the Patriarch of Alexandria of the Coptic Catholics, H.B. Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, who received the ecclesiastica communio from Pope Benedict XVI last January 18. Concelebrating also with the Holy Father and the Coptic Patriarch was Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
Following is a translation of the text of the homily given by the Pope in the course of the Eucharistic celebration and the greeting addressed to the Pope by the Coptic Patriarch.
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THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS’ HOMILY
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
For the first time I have the joy of welcoming as Bishop of Rome a new Patriarch, who has come to carry out a significant gesture of communion with the Successor of Peter. On accepting the canonical election, Your Beatitude immediately asked for “ecclesiastica communio” with the “Church that presides in universal charity.” My Venerable Predecessor gladly granted it, mindful of the bond with the Successor of Peter that the Church of Alexandria of the Coptic Catholics has always maintained throughout her history. You are the expression of the preaching of Saint Mark the Evangelist: and it is in fact this heritage that he left you as good interpreter of the Apostle Peter.
In the First Reading the prophet Isaiah (cf. 35:1-10) awakened in our hearts the expectation of the glorious return of the Lord. We feel the encouragement “to those losing heart” addressed to all those in our beloved Egyptian land experiencing insecurity and violence, sometimes because of their Christian faith. “Courage: do not be afraid!”: see the consoling words which find confirmation in fraternal solidarity. I am grateful to God for this meeting that gives me a way to reinforce your hope and ours, because it is the same: “ … the burning sand … and the thirsty ground – in fact – shall become springs of water” and the Holy Way will finally be opened, the way of joy and of happiness, “and sorrow and sadness shall flee away..” This is our hope, the common hope of our two Churches.
The Gospel (cf. Luke 5:17-26) presents to us Christ who overcomes humanity’s paralysis. It describes the power of divine mercy that forgives and loosens every sin when it finds genuine faith. The paralyses of consciences are contagious. With the complicity of the poverties of history, and of our sin, they can spread and enter in the social structures and in the communities until they block whole nations. However, Christ’s command can reverse the situation: “Rise and walk!” Let us pray with confidence so that in the Holy Land and in the whole of the Middle East peace can always arise again from the very many and at times dramatic recurring breaks. Instead, may enmity and divisions cease forever. May peace agreements be taken up speedily, often paralyzed by counter proposals and dark interests. May real guarantees of religious freedom be given finally to all , together with the right for Christians to live serenely where they were born, in the homeland they have loved as citizens for two thousand years, to contribute as always to the good of all. May the Lord Jesus, who experienced the flight with the Holy Family and was a guest in your generous land, watch over the Egyptians who seek dignity and security on the roads of the world. And let us always go forward, seeking the Lord, seeking new paths, new ways to come close to the Lord. And if it were necessary to open a hole in the roof for all of us to come close to the Lord, may our creative imagination of charity lead us to this: to find and make paths of encounter, paths of brotherhood, paths of peace.
On our part, we desire to “glorify God,” replacing fear with wonder: today we can see again “prodigious things.” The prodigy of the Incarnation of the Word and, because of this, the absolute closeness of God to humanity, in which the mystery of Advent is always placed. May your great Father Athanasius, placed so close to the Chair of Peter in the Vatican Basilica, intercede for us with Saint Mark and Saint Peter, and above all with the Immaculate and All Holy Mother of God. May they obtain for us from the Lord the joy of the Gospel, given in abundance to the disciples and witnesses. So be it.
[Original text: Italian]
[Translation by ZENIT]
GREETING OF THE COPTIC PATRIARCH, H.B. IBRAHIM ISAAC SIDRAK
Most Blessed Father,
It is with a sense of profound veneration that I bring to Your Holiness my most profound gratitude for the possibility granted to celebrate the Divine Liturgy with you on the occasion of the public signification of the “ecclesiastica communio.” At the same time I present to you the profound gratitude of the Bishops, the presbyters, the men and women Religious and of all the faithful of the Coptic-Catholic Church which is extended also to the very Eminent Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, and to all his collaborators who worked for the realization of this very significant moment for me and for all the Church, which I am called to serve as Head and Father. In this delicate historical moment, she feels the need to be sustained by your paternal embrace, Holiness, and by your continual teachings of life. In the time that we prepare to celebrate the Incarnation of the Word, I cannot forget the historical bond of my land with this mystery, from the moment that Egypt was in fact the first place of hospitality for the Holy Family fleeing from Herod’s persecutions. That corner of the earth between the desert and the Nile has experienced, and still experiences the painful drama of so many persons desirous of being heard and received. Our Church is there, ready to receive anyone who knocks at the door, to offer hospitality to those who ask for aid, to help the needy, the abandoned, and to witness the Gospel, as it was transmitted by the evangelist Saint Mark. It is to his preaching, as disciple of Saint Peter, that the Church in Egypt owes her birth and today more than ever, as children, we are in need of the support that only your paternity, in as much as Successor of Peter the Apostle, you can give us. I entrust our country to your prayers and, in particular, the Coptic-Catholic community, the clergy and the faithful that the Holy Spirit has willed to entrust to me through the Synodal Fathers. From now on we pray for you, Holy Father: may the Lord keep you and give you the strength to continue to transmit to every man the joy of the Gospel – “Evangelii gaudium.” May the light of Holy Christmas be the star that reveals the path of love, of unity, of reconciliation and of peace, gifts of which my land is in such great need. Asking for your blessing, Holy Father, we await you in Egypt.
[Original text: Italian]
[Translation by ZENIT]