.- Pope Benedict XVI met today with His Beatitude Antonios Naguib, the Patriarch of Alexandria for Catholic Copts who is officially visiting the Holy See for the first time since his election in March of this year.
The term Copt refers to any Christian of Egyptian origin, whether they be Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant. The Catholic Coptic Church, maintains an eastern liturgy and elects its own patriarch, while maintaining its allegiance to the Holy Father and the universal Catholic Church.
The Church in Alexandria, founded by the Apostle St. Mark, is considered one of the oldest foundations of Christianity in the world
In his French address, the Pope asked the patriarch to give his greetings to all the bishops, priests, and faithful of his patriarchy, as well as to Cardinal Stephanos II Ghattas, Patriarch Emeritus of Alexandria.
"The communion in Christ that unites us and all Catholics around the Successor of Peter is best seen in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy," said the Holy Father.
While recalling that the seat of Alexandria was the "first patriarchy after Rome" during the first five centuries of Christianity, Benedict XVI emphasized that its patriarchal community is the "bearer of a rich spiritual, liturgical, and theological tradition - the Alexandrian tradition -, whose treasures form part of the Church's patrimony".
He assured the patriarch of his prayers and support in the "special duty that the ecumenical Second Vatican Council entrusted to the Eastern Catholic Churches: "to make progress toward the unity of all Christians, above all Eastern Christians".
Due to its location in a primarily Islamic country, the Pope said, the Patriarch of Alexandria for Catholic Copts also has "an important role in interreligious dialogue to develop fraternity and respect among Christians and Muslims".
The Pope also invited His Beatitude to "continue encouraging the theological and spiritual pursuit of his tradition".
"In today's world, your mission is of great importance for the faithful and for all human persons", the Holy Father said, praising the attention the patriarch has given to the "human, spiritual, moral, and intellectual education of youth through a network of quality schools and catechesis that constitute a service to the entire society".
Referring to the formation of priests the Pope underlined that "the vitality of Christian communities in the world today needs pastors (...) who are truly witnesses to the Word of God and guides to help the faithful be always more deeply rooted in the life and the mission of Christ".