04 May 2017, The Tablet

Popes recognise each Church’s baptism

In a meeting with Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox leader Pope Tawadros II in Cairo on Friday, Pope Francis said the two communities must oppose violence and work more closely together to witness to Christ in the world, writes Christopher Lamb.

In a common declaration, signed by Pope Francis and the Coptic Pope, Catholics and Copts declared for the first time that they will recognise each other’s Sacrament of Baptism. The joint statement was made public following the meeting.

Recalling the first encounter of a Catholic and a Coptic pope, Paul VI and Shenouda III in May 1973, following centuries of separation, Francis spoke of the theological progress, but also the growing realisation that “it is no longer possible to take refuge behind the pretext of differing interpretations”.

Alongside the ecumenism of gestures, words and commitments, he stressed, there is an effective spiritual communion grounded in a shared faith and common baptism. Calling for Orthodox and Catholics to speak “the common language of charity”, Francis urged all Christians to work more closely together to carry their faith to the world.

In particular he praised the Orthodox leader for his efforts to promote good relations through the establishment of a National Council of Christian Churches.

This deeper ecumenical journey is mysteriously sustained, the Pope said, by the blood of the  martyrs, from past centuries and the present day. Recalling the “innocent blood of defenceless Christians” killed in recent terror attacks, he said “strengthened by this witness, let us strive to oppose violence by preaching and sowing goodness, fostering concord and preserving unity”.

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