Coptic Pope Tawadoros II visits Catholic Pope Francis at Vatican

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VATICAN CITY — The Roman Catholic and Egyptian Coptic Orthodox churches are in a position to settle their historical rifts, Pope Francis said Friday as he welcomed his Coptic counterpart, Tawadros II.

It was the first such visit to the Vatican by a Coptic pope in 40 years and Tawadros’ first trip outside Egypt since being enthroned in November. His predecessor, Shenouda III, met with then-Pope Paul VI in 1973.

Francis said the leaders of the two churches met at that time “in an embrace of peace and fraternity after centuries of mutual distance,” setting them on a path of theological rapprochement. “I am convinced that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, our persevering prayer, our dialogue and the will to build communion day-by-day in mutual love will allow us to take important further steps towards full unity,” Francis said.

Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s mostly Muslim population of 84 million.

Tawadros invited Francis to Egypt. The late pope John Paul II visited the country in 2000.

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