By Myrna Abbas
“Is he here yet?” said Theodora George running into the living room and raising her arms over her head as she hastily tried to adjust her dark, black curls. Her index ﬁnger tapped rhythmically against the window pane, as she scanned the dark streets of Milan which were decorated by headlights, creating bright dots that grew in size as they neared.
“I can’t believe I’m going to meet him. I can barely contain myself!” exclaimed the 22-year-old university student as she was balancing on her tip toes, her palms pressed against the pane as she peered out the window.
A convoy of vehicles suddenly came to a halt outside Theodora’s window. Police officers exited their vehicles and stood neatly along the side-walk Out of the first black car, a man in a suit hurried out of the passenger’s seat. He swung the back-seat door open, and stood firmly staring ahead.
Theodora leaned forward, focusing on the open door. Suddenly, a wooden staff, decorated in gold, poked out the door and slammed onto the pavement. A gentle hand gripped it, as two feet were slowly planted on the ground. He rose, standing greatly in his black, papal attire.
A solitary tear rushed down Theodora’s face as she realized that the moment she has been waiting for has arrived. Egypt’s Coptic Pope Tawadros II was graciously ushered into the building that Theodora had anxiously been awaiting inside.
Last Wednesday, Pope Tawadros II, 60, honoured the Egyptian Consul General’s residence in Milan with his presence, accompanied by Archbishops from Europe and North America. The Pope had been present in Italy for a trip to the Vatican – the first of such visits in 40 years – and had decided to visit Milan to meet with members of the Egyptian community.
Ambassador Consul General of Milan, Amr Abbas, hosted the dinner event for the Pope at the Egyptian residence. The Ambassador was delighted for the occasion, and expressed the eagerness of the Egyptian community in Milan to meet with the Pope.
“They [the community] were all looking forward to seeing Pope Tawadros, to get His Holiness’ blessings and solidarity in their ex-patriot status. Being an ex-patriot living abroad, you always need some sort of support. He is giving them religious and moral support. He is extending links between Egypt and the Egyptians living abroad,” said the Ambassador.
Soon after his arrival, Pope Tawadros II was introduced to a few members of the Egyptian community. Unable to contain a rush of emotions, Theodora was filled with tears as the Pope asked her about her studies and her plans for the future. “Finally meeting Pope Tawadros II is a dream come true!” she said with a huge smile on her face.
The dinner consisted of more than 30 guests, and included Archbishops Bakhomious and Hidra, Archbishop Serapion of Los Angeles, Deputy Pope and Archbishop Kirrolos of Milan, and many other distinguishable guests.
The guests were treated to a three-course meal cooked by Coptic Christian Chef, Sameh. “It is such a great honor to cook for His Holiness,” said Sameh who has two little girls and a wife back in Egypt. “Meeting the Pope and cooking for him, what more can a man ask for!”
After the second course, Consul-General Amr Abbas stood to give a short speech quoting Pope Tawadros II and the late Pope Shenouda, “Your Holiness earlier spoke words I shall never forget: ‘Islam and Christianity are the two spirits of Egypt, two lungs of the same body’. The late Pope Shenouda once said ‘Egypt is not a nation that we live in, it’s a nation that lives in us.’ I shall forever carry those words with me.”
In response to the Ambassador’s speech, Pope Tawadros II rose and expressed humble words of gratitude and pride. “I am happy and proud to be among fellow Egyptians,” said the Pope. “Exchanging pleasant thoughts and dining harmoniously. This is the ﬁrst time I have ever personally visited a family household abroad. It is also the ﬁrst time in 40 years for a Pope to return to the Vatican.”
There was an atmosphere of fraternity amongst the guests that evening, as everyone crowded alongside the Pope to take photographs that would forever remind them of this memorable night. After exchanging goodbyes, the Pope and the Archbishops of Europe and North America went on their way, leaving a trace of brightness behind.
“Tonight was the best night of my entire life,” said Theodora George, stiﬂing tears of joy. “It was a night that I will never forget.”