Cairo (Agenzia Fides) - The Joint Declaration signed on Friday 28 April in Cairo by Pope Francis and Catholic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros is causing various kinds of reactions within the Orthodox Coptic Church. In paragraph n. 11 of the text signed last Friday, on the occasion of the visit of the Bishop of Rome to Egypt, the Pope and the Patriarch stated that they "will seek sincerely not to repeat the baptism that has been administered in either of our Churches for any person who wishes to join the other, in obedience to the Holy Scriptures and the faith of the three Ecumenical Councils assembled in Nicaea, Constantinople and Ephesus". This passage, signed by Pope Tawadros on behalf of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Coptic Church, expresses the concrete intention of overcoming the practice of so-called "re-baptism", still administered today by some Christian communities to new faithful coming from other ecclesial confessions.
After the release of the Declaration, blogs and social media began criticising Pope Tawadros, accused by some Coptic exponents of wanting to subdue the Orthodox Coptic Church to the Catholic Church. Already on Saturday, the Coptic Information Center issued a statement to clarify that the Declaration signed by Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros does not contain a formal agreement on the question of re-baptisms, and is to be interpreted in continuity with the path of theological dialogue that began between the Orthodox Coptic Church and the Catholic Church with the visit that Patriarch Shenuda III made in Rome in 1973 to meet Pope Paul VI.
"All Egyptians, whether Christian or Muslim, were happy and surprised at the visit of Pope Francis to Egypt", reports to Agenzia Fides Anba Boutros Fahim Awad Hanna, Coptic Catholic Bishop of Minya. "For this reason", adds Anba Boulos, "in the ecclesiastical controversies that are mounting on social media, I see that the devil is trying to ruin the positive atmosphere the Pope left in the Country. The Declaration is clear and represents an important step towards the future. Pope Tawadros signed it with the consent of the Holy Synod of his Church. Criticism was predictable. Now it is important to move on together, in the path indicated by Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros". (GV) (Agenzia Fides 2/5/2017)