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Following Fiducia Supplicans, Coptic Orthodox Church suspends theological dialogue with Catholic Church

March 11, 2024

Rejecting any blessing of homosexual relationships, the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church has suspended theological dialogue with the Catholic Church, less than three months after the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith issued Fiducia Supplicans, its declaration on the pastoral meaning of blessings.

“After consulting with the sister churches of the [Oriental] Orthodox family, it was decided to suspend the theological dialogue with the Catholic Church, reevaluate the results achieved by the dialogue from its beginning twenty years ago, and establish new standards and mechanisms for the dialogue to proceed in the future,” stated the Synod, led by Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria.

“The Coptic Orthodox Church affirms its firm position of rejecting all forms of homosexual relationships, because they violate the Holy Bible and the law by which God created man as male and female, and the Church considers any blessing of such relations, whatever its type, to be a blessing for sin, and this is unacceptable.,” the Synod continued.

The Synod also released a seven-paragraph statement on “the belief of the Coptic Orthodox Church on the issue of homosexuality.”

The Coptic Orthodox Church (CNEWA profile) is among the Oriental Orthodox churches that ceased to be in full communion with the Holy See following the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451. The Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church have made significant ecumenical progress since the Second Vatican Council.

That progress had accelerated under Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros II, with the latter visiting Rome in 2013 and 2023, and Pope Francis visiting Egypt in 2017. An annual day of friendship between Copts and Catholics was established in 2014, typically commemorated with an exchange of letters between Francis and Tawadros.

The Holy Synod’s rejection of blessings of homosexual relationships was presaged by the commentary on Fiducia Supplicans by Coptic Orthodox Metropolitan Serapion of Los Angeles. In December, two days after Fiducia Supplicans was published, he wrote:

The Declaration confirms that such sexual relationships in an irregular marriage or same-sex union are sinful and against the teaching of the Church on marriage and sexuality. Then how can the Church bless what the Church considers sinful? Is not this a real confusion? Or is it confusion only if the blessing is liturgical? Imagine a Catholic priest teaching a class on the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality and stating very clearly the Church’s moral teaching. After the class, a couple in an irregular marriage or same-sex union come to him and request a blessing. Does he bless them? Does he bless what he just said was against the moral teaching of the Church? ...

It is understandable if a person, a man or a woman in an irregular marriage or same-sex union, comes to the Church seeking help and God’s mercy through the Church’s blessing to strengthen him or her to repent and live a life of purity. But if a man comes with his girlfriend or his male partner to the Church and the Church blesses this couple, is the Church leading them to repentance or is the Church leading them to remain in sin and feel that their actions are now blessed by the Church?

In the end, we sincerely regret the issuance of such a declaration that created confusion and division in the Catholic Church.

Our Church is in a theological dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church, so our Church, along with the Oriental Orthodox Churches who are with us in the dialogue, will express our deep concern and ask for clarification from the Catholic Church in the coming theological dialogue in January 2024. We will forward our conclusions to the Synodical Committee on the Ecumenical Relationship to be presented to the Holy Synod in March 2024 so we may decide about our stance regarding this theological dialogue.

We learn from this the dangers of innovation. We may bring renewal, but not innovation as this declaration did by not using clear language in its theological and moral teaching. Let us remember what St. Paul said to his disciple, Timothy, when he commanded him, “O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Tim. 6:20–21).

 


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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Mar. 12, 2024 6:40 PM ET USA

    Francis said he is not afraid of schisms. We now see that he is neither afraid of new schisms nor of perpetuating old ones.