The Archbishop of Canterbury has given his highest award to the UK Bishop of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church, Bishop Angaelos, for his “exceptional services to the cause of Christian unity”.

Justin Welby said to Bishop Angaelos, in presenting the Lambeth Cross for Ecumenism, “My encounter with Orthodoxy through you has been a really profound experience … It has changed much of my understanding of what the Church is universally. I have never had that much engagement with Orthodoxy, and certainly not with Coptic Orthodoxy. I found a completely different understanding, a much deeper sense of being drawn into the Body of Christ, and this is a recognition of the importance of your role in presenting to the UK and to the Church that we belong to one another in Christ.”

Bishop Angaelos welcomed “working with … the Anglican Communion worldwide to advocate for others … It comes at a time at which we must stand together. It is time for us to speak collaboratively and powerfully. It is only by the world seeing us standing together and witnessing that what we have in common is more than what separates us, that it realises that we have common ground, especially for those who are not so privileged as we are to speak…

“At a time of increasing challenge and darkness, when there appears to be no hope, and those who threaten us appear to be stronger, our hope and strength lies well and truly in our unity, in our shared vision, and in our commitment to do what we can, not only for ourselves but for the world around us.”

Adherents of the Coptic Church are the largest contingent of Christians remaining in the Middle East, where Christians have been subject to continued pressures, including rampant violence forcing large numbers out of their ancestral lands in places like Iraq and Syria.