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Text Of Common Declaration On Baptism, by Pope Francis, Pope Tawadros

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CAIRO (CNS) — Here is the text of
the common declaration on baptism between Pope Francis and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, signed April 28.

1. We, Francis, bishop of Rome and
pope of the Catholic Church, and Tawadros II, pope of Alexandria and patriarch.of the See of St. Mark, give thanks to God in the Holy Spirit for granting us.the joyful opportunity to meet once more, to exchange a fraternal embrace join again in common prayer. We glorify the Almighty for the bonds of.fraternity and friendship existing between the See of St. Peter and the See of St. Mark. The privilege of being together here in Egypt is a sign that the solidity of our relationship is increasing year by year, and that we are growing in
closeness, faith and love of Christ our Lord. We give thanks to God for this
beloved Egypt, the “homeland that lives inside us,” as His Holiness Pope
Shenouda III used to say, the “people blessed by God” (cf. Is 19:25)
with its ancient Pharaonic civilization, the Greek and Roman heritage, the
Coptic tradition and the Islamic presence. Egypt is the place where the Holy.Family found refuge, a land of martyrs and saints.

2. Our deep bond of friendship and
fraternity has its origin in the full communion that existed between our the first centuries and was expressed in many different ways through the.early ecumenical councils, dating back to the Council of Nicaea in 325 and the contribution.of the courageous church father St. Athanasius, who earned the title “Protector
of the Faith.” Our communion was expressed through prayer and similar
liturgical practices, the veneration of the same martyrs and saints, and in the
development and spread of monasticism, following the example of the great St.
Anthony, known as the father of all monks.

This common experience of
communion before the time of separation has a special significance in our.efforts to restore full communion today. Most of the relations which existed in.the early centuries between the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church have.continued to the present day in spite of divisions, and have recently been.revitalized. They challenge us to intensify our common efforts to persevere in.the search for visible unity in diversity, under the guidance of the Holy.Spirit.

3. We recall with gratitude the
historic meeting 44 years ago between our predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Pope
Shenouda III, in an embrace of peace and fraternity, after many centuries when
our mutual bonds of love were not able to find expression due to the distance that.had arisen between us. The common declaration they signed on May 10, 1973, represented.a milestone on the path of ecumenism and served as a starting point for the Commission
for Theological Dialogue between our two churches, which has borne much fruit.and opened the way to a broader dialogue between the Catholic Church and the whole family of Oriental Orthodox Churches. In that declaration, our churches acknowledged that, in line with the apostolic tradition, they profess “one faith in the One Triune God” and “the divinity of the only-begotten
Son of God … perfect God with respect to his divinity, perfect man with
respect to his humanity.” It was also acknowledged that “the divine
life is given to us and is nourished in us through the seven sacraments” and
that “we venerate the Virgin Mary, mother of the True Light,” the “Theotokos.”

4. With deep gratitude we recall
our own fraternal meeting in Rome on May 10, 2013, and the establishment of May 10 as the day when each year we deepen the friendship and brotherhood between.our churches. This renewed spirit of closeness has enabled us to discern once.more that the bond uniting us was received from our one Lord on the day of our.baptism. For it is through baptism that we become members of the one body of Christ that is the church (cf. 1 Cor 12:13). This common heritage is the basis of our pilgrimage together toward full communion, as we grow in love and

5. We are aware that we still have
far to go on this pilgrimage, yet we recall how much has already been
accomplished. In particular, we call to mind the meeting between Pope Shenouda III and St. John Paul II, who came as a pilgrim to Egypt during the Great Jubilee of the year 2000. We are determined to follow in their footsteps, moved by the love of Christ the good shepherd, in the profound conviction that by walking together, we grow in unity. May we draw our strength from God, the perfect source of communion and love.

6. This love finds its deepest
expression in common prayer. When Christians pray together, they come to
realize that what unites them is much greater than what divides them. Our longing for unity receives its inspiration from the prayer of Christ “that all may
be one” (Jn 17:21). Let us deepen our shared roots in the one apostolic faith
by praying together and by seeking common translations of the Lord’s Prayer and a common date for the celebration of Easter.

7. As we journey toward the
blessed day when we will at last gather at the same eucharistic table, we can
cooperate in many areas and demonstrate in a tangible way the great richness which already unites us. We can bear witness together to fundamental values such as the sanctity and dignity of human life, the sacredness of marriage and, and respect for all of creation, entrusted to us by God. In the face of.many contemporary challenges such as secularization and the globalization of indifference, we are called to offer a shared response based on the values of.the Gospel and the treasures of our respective traditions. In this regard, we are encouraged to engage in a deeper study of the Oriental and Latin fathers, and to promote a fruitful exchange in pastoral life, especially in catechesis, and in mutual spiritual enrichment between monastic and religious communities.

8. Our shared Christian witness is
a grace-filled sign of reconciliation and hope for Egyptian society and its
institutions, a seed planted to bear fruit in justice and peace. Since we
believe that all human beings are created in the image of God, we strive for
serenity and concord through a peaceful co-existence of Christians and Muslims,
thus bearing witness to God’s desire for the unity and harmony of the entire
human family and the equal dignity of each human being. We share a concern for the welfare and the future of Egypt. All members of society have the right and duty to participate fully in the life of the nation, enjoying full and equal
citizenship and collaborating to build up their country. Religious freedom,
including freedom of conscience, rooted in the dignity of the person, is the
cornerstone of all other freedoms. It is a sacred and inalienable right.

9. Let us intensify our unceasing
prayer for all Christians in Egypt and throughout the whole world, and the Middle East. The tragic experiences and the blood shed by our faithful.who were persecuted and killed for the sole reason of being Christian, all the more that the ecumenism of martyrdom unites us and encourages us.along the way to peace and reconciliation. For, as St. Paul writes: “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1Cor 12:26).

10. The mystery of Jesus who died
and rose out of love lies at the heart of our journey toward full unity. Once
again, the martyrs are our guides. In the early church the blood of the martyrs
was the seed of new Christians. So, too, in our own day, may the blood of so
many martyrs be the seed of unity among all Christ’s disciples, a sign and
instrument of communion and peace for the world.

11. In obedience to the work of
the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies the church, keeps her throughout the ages, and.leads her to full unity — that unity for which Jesus Christ prayed: Today we,
Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros II, in order to please the heart of the Lord Jesus, as well as that of our sons and daughters in the faith, mutually declare that.we, with one mind and heart, 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. This we confess in obedience to the holy Scriptures and the
faith of the three ecumenical councils assembled in Nicaea, Constantinople and
Ephesus. We ask God our Father to guide us, in the times and by the means that
the Holy Spirit will choose, to full unity in the mystical Body of Christ.

12. Let us, then, be guided by the
teachings and the example of the apostle Paul, who writes: “(Make) every
effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and
one Spirit, just as you, too, were called to the one hope of your calling, one
Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and
through all and in all” (Eph 4:3-6).

Cairo, April 28, 2017


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