Coptic Church May Recognize Roman Catholic Baptisms

As reported on May 22, 2013 by Catholic News USA and Zenit news, continuing ecumenical discussions between the Coptic Anti-Chalcedonian (Monophysite) Church of Egypt and the Roman Catholic Church, could lead to the Coptic Patriarchate recognizing the Baptisms of the Roman Catholic Church. Previously, the traditional policy of the Coptic Church was that it did not recognize the Baptisms outside of its own communion of Churches (that is, the Armenian, Syro-Jacobite, etc, anti-chalcedonian monophysite churches). Though, it had reached agreements with the World Orthodox Patriarchates to recognize theirs; however, even this has proven problematic, because, not only does the Coptic Church officially reject the Baptisms of Roman Catholics and Protestants as acceptable, but, it even rejects the popular policy of the World Orthodox Patriarchates to Chrismate Protestants and Roman Catholics (baptizing such if they convert to the Coptic Church).

Since the ill health of the current Coptic Catholic Patriarch (Uniate Coptic Church in union with the Vatican) Cardinal Antonios Naguib, Bp. Kyrillos William, the Bishop of Assiut, was assigned to aid in the administration of the Coptic Catholic population. Since then Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak succeeded Cardinal Antonios as Coptic Patriarch, being elected by the Coptic Catholic Synod in January of 2013, with the election later confirmed by Benedict XVI of Rome.

According to Bp. Kyrillos William, recent discussion between the Vatican and the Coptic Church achieved an ecumenist success with the meeting  earlier in May 2013 between Pope Francis and Coptic Pope Tawadros II. The predecessor to Tawadros II, Pope Shenouda III, had required conversion of the non-Coptic party in case of marriage, including the Baptism of Roman Catholics or Protestants, whether in marriage or in any other conversion situation.  This policy was re-enforced by Pope Shenouda III making the appointment of several bishops to the Coptic Church which supported this policy. However, according to statements by Bp. Kyrillos William, this may soon change, as apparently Pope Tawadros II has stated his willingness to move in a more ecumenical direction with Rome.

According to Bp. Kyrillos, “Now it isn’t easy to obtain an audience in the Vatican at short notice. But great efforts were made to meet Tawadros’ wishes. I think that this really is a watershed. Tawadros is quite different from his predecessor Shenouda as far as the ecumenical movement is concerned.”

From a traditionalist (“Eastern”) Orthodox perspective, the Coptic Church is not considered Orthodox, nor any of the Churches that reject Chalcedon; this has proven to be a key difference between the traditional, or true, Orthodox Churches, and the World Patriarchates that have achieved limited to full inter-communion with the anti-Chalcedonian Monophysite churches. It seems, from all the information, that, the Coptic Monophysite Church felt that it could have some degree of ecumenical relation, including the recognition of Sacraments, with the World Patriarchates, but, for some time, further ecumenism was held back by more conservative tendencies, represented by Pope Shenouda III, etc. Yet, even this seems strangely provincial, as the sister churches of the Coptic Church, such as the the Armenian Church have long had a policy of giving communion to Roman Catholics, recognizing their baptisms, sacraments, etc (of course, other differences that have recently caused friction between Copts and Armenians in the US, i.e., Coptic insistence on Confession before Communion; while private confession to a priest has all but been abolished by the Armenian Church), as well as the recognition and limited inter-communion achieved between the Syro-Jacobite Church of Antioch and Rome (as well as similar agreements between Rome and the Malankaran Church)

It is the sincere wish of traditionalist Orthodox Christians that the Coptic people, whether Coptic Anti-Chalcedonians (Monophysites) or Coptic Catholics, return to the Orthodox Church, and accept all the Seven Ecumenical Councils and teachings of the Holy Fathers of the Church of Christ.  However, it seems, due to the modernist/ecumenist stance of the Greek Patriarchate of Alexandria, as well as the notorious Antiochian Patriarchate, etc, such a message of True Orthodoxy has not been at all presented to them; instead, all that has been told them has confirmed them in their sad error.

One wonders, when will the many Coptic Christians who are members of the Coptic Church realize that, what they often thought was correct Orthodox practices (such as not giving Communion to non-Orthodox, disruption of communion with those who teach heresy, etc) are not even being practiced by their Sister Churches; nor it seems, will this soon be the policy of the Coptic Pope and his Synod itself (yet they have maintained communion all these years with their sister churches that give communion to Roman Catholics and recognize the Vatican as part of the Church)? At which point, they must ask, “Where is the true Church?” After all, the majority of Coptic Christians believed that they were Orthodox, and what if they realize that they are not part of the Orthodox Church? Who do they look to for the Truth? If it is not in the Roman Catholic Church, or the anti-Chalcedonian bodies which no longer maintain their own tradition (and thus going the way of the ecclesiastical historical nihilism of the Assyrian Church of the East), nor in the World Patriarchates, then where is it? The answer, from the editors of this site, is that it is found in the True Orthodox Church, which maintains the strict confession of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, and all others Councils of Orthodoxy; this alone, in an age of modernist and ecumenical morass, should demonstrate the truth of True Orthodoxy. The fact that no such movements have been generated in the Nestorian or Monophysite Churches should give evidence of the lack of considering them for this position. In a time of great persecution and harm done to the Coptic community from the Islamic powers of Egypt, what will be the stay of the Coptic people, when they realize that all they have been taught has been thrown under the bus by their own leaders, and the leaders of their Sister Churches, in pursuit of ecumenical solidarity that leads them even further from Orthodox Truth than before?