As the Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II met Catholic Pope Francis in Rome on 10 May 2023, they celebrated 10 years on their first meeting and, more importantly, 50 years on the historic “Joint Christological Declaration” that paved the way for ongoing theological dialogue between the two Churches.
The Joint Christological Declaration was signed by their predecessors Pope Shenouda III and Pope Paul VI in Rome and marked the first meeting between the Catholic and Coptic Orthodox Churches since the great schism at the Chalcedon in 451.
According to Pope Francis, the Declaration “marked a historic milestone in relations between the See of St Peter and the See of St Mark … and later served as an inspiration for similar agreements with other Eastern Orthodox Churches.”
A new book celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Joint Christological Declaration hit the bookstores on 10 May. The book charts the 50-year efforts of the Catholic and Coptic Orthodox Churches to overcome the differences between them.
Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros jointly wrote the preface for the new book titled The Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church. 50th Anniversary of the Meeting between Pope Paul VI and Pope Shenouda III (1973-2023).
The preface begins with the desire for the two Churches to “journey towards full communion”.
“We also need to give thanks to God by remembering the steps already taken and the distance already travelled, which are often much more important than we imagine.”
The 1973 Declaration crowned years of ecumenical and theological dialogue between the Catholic and Coptic Orthodox Churches following the Second Vatican Council.
“We have met in the desire to deepen the relations between our Churches and to find concrete ways to overcome the obstacles in the way of our real cooperation in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the 1973 declaration states.
“We humbly recognise that our Churches are not able to give more perfect witness to this new life in Christ because of existing divisions which have behind them centuries of difficult history … In fact, since the year 451AD theological differences, nourished and widened by non-theological factors, have sprung up. These differences cannot be ignored.
“In spite of them, however, we are rediscovering ourselves as Churches with a common inheritance and are reaching out with determination and confidence in the Lord to achieve the fullness and perfection of that unity which is His gift.”
The preface of the new book concluded with the note: “As we see, the meeting of our predecessors is bearing fruit. We pray that the memory of this day and it’s consequences would continue to inspire our journey towards ecumenism, to fulfill the Lord’s desire: “That they may be one” (John 17: 21).
11 May 2023
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