Pope Tawadros II, the Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, arrived in Sydney on Wednesday morning for his first ever papal visit to Australia.
The Pope, who is in Australia to meet with the Coptic community in Australia, is expected to meet with top Australian political and religious figures during his 10-day pastoral visit to the Australian cities of Sydney, Canberra, and Melbourne.
“This visit makes a good and strong link between the Mother Church in Egypt…established in the middle of the first century, and with the new church established here 50 years ago,” said Pope Tawadros II shortly after he arrived in Sydney at a press conference.
During the press conference held at Sydney airport, Pope Tawadros II praised the multicultural nature of Australia and said he looked forward to meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and thanking him for maintaining good relations with Egypt.
“I will thank him for good relations and cooperation with Egypt,” said Pope Tawadros II when asked about his upcoming meeting with Turnbull.
“I will also thank him for the presence of the Coptic Church here and their activities. I will also hear from him about his experience about the different nationalities living together here in harmony and tolerance. This is a good experience to learn about from Australia.”
Asked about terrorism and attacks on Coptic Christians, Pope Tawadros II stressed the importance of national unity.
“We have many dreams in Egypt. Egypt is a special country,” said Pope Tawadros II.
“All Egyptians are moderate. All Egyptians. All the Egyptian history, from Pharaonic until now, is very moderate. Therefore, the attacks which happen in Egypt come from outside. This is to affect national unity of Egyptians. I assure that this national unity is very very strong.”
With Australia gearing up to vote on whether to allow same-sex marriage, one reporter asked Pope Tawadros II about the Coptic Orthodox Church’s view on the matter.
Referring to the Holy Bible, including the Old and New Testaments, Pope Tawadros II said that the concept of same-sex marriage did not exist.
“According to the Holy Bible, when you read either in the Old Testament or the New Testament, there is no – at all – same-sex marriage. Therefore, this marriage is completely refused from the Christian faith.
“When God created man and woman and formed the first family, [this] was made by man and woman.
“This is not accepted at all. It is considered a sin.”
Australia’s Coptic Christian community is the third largest in the world. During his visit to Australia, the Pope is expected to meet with many members of the Coptic Christian community across the cities of Sydney, Canberra, and Melbourne. Two large dinners, with more than 1,000 guests expected, will be held in Sydney and Melbourne over the coming two weekends.
Meanwhile, in Canberra, Egyptian Ambassador Mohamed Khairat is expected to host Pope Tawadros II at the official Egyptian residence for a private dinner. The dinner is expected to be attended by Australian government officials, foreign ambassadors, and members of the Egyptian community.