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Copts suspend theological dialogue with the Catholic Church



10 mai 2013 : THEODORE II (Tawadros II), patriarche copte orthodoxe d'Alexandrie et de toute l'Afrique, visite le Colisée à Rome, Italie. May 10, 2013: TAWADROS II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the see of Saint Mark, in Rome, Italy.

Agence I.Media - published on 03/12/24

Disagreement with the document on blessings seems to be at the root of the interruption of dialogue, shortly after the two Churches celebrated recent martyrs together.

In a statement published on March 7, 2024, the Coptic Orthodox Church announced that it was going to “suspend the theological dialogue with the Catholic Church,” and emphasized its rejection of homosexuality as a “sexual perversion.” This decision comes some three months after the publication of Fiducia supplicans, a statement authorizing Catholic priests to grant non-liturgical blessings to people in irregular unions, including those in homosexual relationships.

The statement was issued following a meeting of the 133-member Holy Synod at St. Bishoy’s Monastery in Egypt, home of the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria.

The Holy Synod is the governing body of this autocephalous Church, separated from the other Christian Churches since the Council of Chalcedon in 451. 

The Coptic Orthodox Church announces that it has “decided to suspend the theological dialogue with the Catholic Church” and wishes to “reevaluate the results achieved by the dialogue from its beginning,” initiated in 2004, in order to “establish new standards and mechanisms for the dialogue to proceed in the future.” This decision was taken after consultation with the “sister churches of the Eastern Orthodox family,” which includes the Ethiopian, Eritrean, Syriac, Assyrian, and Armenian Orthodox Churches. 

Ecumenical setback after significant advances

This announcement comes shortly after the 20th anniversary of the founding of the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, which was celebrated on January 23 at a ceremony at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. 

In addition, on February 15, Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, presided over an ecumenical prayer in St. Peter’s Basilica for the first commemoration of the 21 Christian martyrs from Libya recognized by the Catholic Church on May 11 following a visit by Tawadros II to the Vatican. These were the first saints recognized by the two Churches since their break-up in the 5th century.

Negative reaction to “Fiducia supplicans”

The reason for the suspension of theological dialogue seems to lie in a disagreement over Rome’s publication of the declaration Fiducia supplicans on December 18. In its communiqué, the Coptic Holy Synod published a note on the “The Belief of the Coptic Orthodox Church on the Issue of Homosexuality,” which appears to be a response to this Catholic authorization of non-liturgical blessings for homosexual couples.

Last January, Cardinal Koch, the Vatican’s head of ecumenical relations, said that he had “received a long letter from all the Eastern Orthodox Churches” asking for explanations and clarifications on the declaration. He also mentioned “negative reactions from the ecumenical world.”

The Holy Coptic Synod insists in its note that the Bible “condemns, warns, and forbids sexual practices between two people of the same sex.”

“The Coptic Orthodox Church rejects what is called sexual perversion in its general and comprehensive understanding, and all types of sexual practices outside the sacred framework of marriage,” it reads. 

ChurchCoptic ChristiansEcumenism
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