Prime Minister Stephen Harper today visited the newly-built St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Markham with His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark.
The visit consisted of a tour of the Cathedral, as well as a presentation of the unveiling of a cornerstone inscribed with Prime Minister Harper’s name. Members of the Coptic community observed the presentation from the cathedral pews.
This was the first meeting of Prime Minister Harper and His Holiness Pope Tawadros II. During their meeting, the two leaders discussed the importance of religious freedom and pluralism, as well as the threats currently being faced by many religious minority communities throughout the Middle East.
St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church, North America’s first Coptic Orthodox Church, recently hosted its annual Coptic Festival (September 4 to 7, 2014) to showcase the larger Coptic community and its contributions to Canadian society. This year’s festivities were especially noteworthy as they also commemorated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Coptic Orthodox community in North America. Earlier this week, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, who is visiting with Toronto’s Coptic Orthodox community as part of his Canadian tour, consecrated the new St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral.
His Holiness Pope Tawadros II is the 118th and current Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark. He is the spiritual leader to the global Coptic Orthodox community. He succeeded the late Pope Shenouda III on November 18, 2012.
His Holiness arrived in Toronto on September 3, 2014, to officially kick off his month-long Canadian visit, where he was greeted by Jason Kenney, Minister for Multiculturalism, and Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom.
His Holiness’ first trip to Canada includes visiting and consecrating churches across Canada, meeting with religious leaders, giving a lecture at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and visiting the Egyptian Embassy in Ottawa.
In November 1996, his predecessor, Pope Shenouda III, visited Canada and officiated the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the St. Mark’s Coptic Museum in Toronto.
St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church was initially built in 1978, led by the efforts of Father Marcos. A new cathedral was completed in 2014, to accommodate for the needs of the growing community.
Coptic Orthodox Christians are among the oldest Christian communities in the world, having preserved their traditions for nearly two millennia in Egypt. Canada is home to approximately 50,000 Coptic Orthodox Christians.
The Government of Canada created the Office of Religious Freedom to protect and promote religious freedom around the world. The Office has worked with members of the Coptic Orthodox community in Canada and Egypt to promote the rights of Coptic Orthodox Christians as well as those members of other faiths threatened and persecuted around the world.
“I was honoured to meet His Holiness Pope Tawadros II on his first official visit to Canada. As the spiritual leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, His Holiness is a father to tens of thousands of Coptic Orthodox Christians in Canada and millions worldwide. I wish him a very productive and enriching month-long tour of Canada.” – Prime Minister Stephen Harper
“I had a very productive discussion with His Holiness Pope Tawadros II during which we spoke about concerns of Coptic Christians in Egypt. Canada continues to call for greater freedom for minorities to worship in peace and we remain dedicated to defending religious freedoms around the world.” – Prime Minister Stephen Harper
“It was a pleasure to visit the new St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral today for the first time. This remarkable building is a significant milestone for Canada’s growing Coptic Orthodox community. It is my sincere hope that the cathedral will provide its congregation with a peaceful and holy place of worship for many years to come.” – Prime Minister Stephen Harper