It will be the first time a non-Catholic has celebrated in the pope’s cathedral.”


The head of the Coptic Church is scheduled to offer the Orthodox Divine Liturgy in the Catholic Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in Rome on May 14.

According to Father Martin Browne, an official at the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, this liturgy will take place in the context of an official visit of Coptic Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria to the Vatican and “has been arranged following appropriate consultation.”

In comments to the National Catholic Register on April 21, Browne drew a distinction between the Orthodox liturgy scheduled for May and the unapproved Anglican service that took place this week in the same basilica.

The Catholic Church recognizes the Orthodox Church’s sacraments as valid, even if still in schism, while the Church does not recognize Anglican orders as valid, which means they cannot validly celebrate Mass.

“Pope Tawadros will celebrate at a specially constructed altar and not the main altar of the basilica,” Browne said, noting that the Anglican service also did not take place at the main altar.

“The liturgy will be for the Coptic faithful in Italy, which again gives it a different character to one involving solely pilgrim clergy,” he added.

And that’s not all. Aleteia adds this:

Ten years after his meeting with Pope Francis and 50 years after the first meeting between a pope and a Coptic Orthodox patriarch, Tawadros II will be alongside the Argentine Pontiff during the general audience on Wednesday May 10 in Saint Peter’s Square.

Then, on Sunday, May 14, the leader of more than 10 million faithful in Egypt will celebrate Divine Liturgy (Mass) in the Basilica of Saint John in Lateran for the Coptic faithful.

For Dominican priest Father Hyacinthe Destivelle, a member of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, “it will be the first time that a non-Catholic will celebrate in the Pope’s cathedral.”

Father Destiville adds:

May 10 falls on a Wednesday, the day of Pope Francis’ general audience in St. Peter’s Square. The patriarch will therefore be present at his side during his catechesis and will speak. It will be a first.

In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI brought in the Armenian Catholicos Karekin II during an audience, but the latter did not speak. This time, Tawadros II will speak.

The next day, the Patriarch will be received by the Pope in a private audience with his delegation and there will be an exchange of speeches. The theme of the ecumenism of blood may come to the fore – we know that it’s dear to Pope Francis. The Coptic Church is often called the “Church of the Martyrs.” The memory of the Coptic martyrs assassinated by the Islamic State organization in 2015 in Libya may be evoked. Then the two Church leaders will spend a period of prayer in the Vatican’s Redemptoris Mater chapel.

Sunday May 14 will also be a historic day since the Patriarch will celebrate a mass at the Basilica of Saint John of Lateran for the Coptic faithful. It will be the first time a non-Catholic has celebrated in the pope’s cathedral. I think the basilica will be full, because there’s a very large and dynamic Coptic diaspora in the Rome region and in Italy, perhaps 100,000 faithful.