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Pope Francis and Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II, May 10, 2023Vatican News/Screenshot

WADI EL-NATRUN, Egypt (LifeSiteNews) — The Coptic Orthodox Church has condemned same-sex blessings and suspended its ecumenical dialogue with the Catholic Church citing a “change of position” from the Vatican about homosexuality.

In a statement issued March 7, the Coptic Orthodox Church announced that it would be ceasing its dialogue with the Catholic Church:

After consulting with the sister churches of the Eastern 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.

The Coptic Orthodox – led by the Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church Tawadros II of Alexandria –  do not accept the authority of the Roman Pontiff, though dialogue between Rome and the Copts has been underway since 1973. 

In a subsequent video statement and summary of the synod – translated by the Secretum Mihi blog – Coptic spokesman Father Moussa Ibrahim affirmed that the break in dialogue was a direct result of what he described as “the change of position of the Catholic Church regarding the issue of homosexuality.”

Without naming it directly, the Coptic Orthodox’s rejection of dialogue comes in response to the December 2023 Declaration Fiducia Supplicans issued by Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Victor Manuel Fernández.

READ: Pope Francis publishes norms for clergy to ‘bless’ homosexual couples  

Fr. Ibrahim stated that the Coptic rejection of dialogue with Rome was the “most prominent” of all the nine decrees and decisions taken by the Orthodox during their recent Synod. Amongst a further 13 recommendations issued by the Coptic Synod was a reaffirmation of the Christian and Scriptural teaching regarding homosexuality: 

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 March 7 press release further contained a lengthy statement regarding the Coptic “belief” on homosexuality. The position stated:

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 categorically rejects invoking the idea of different cultures to justify same-sex relations within what is called ‘absolute human freedom,’ which causes the destruction of humanity. The Church, while affirming its complete belief in [personal] human rights and freedom, also affirms that the freedom of the created is not absolute to the point of transgressing and breaking the laws of the Creator.

Coptic-Catholic dialogue

The Coptic breaking their dialogue with Rome comes as a signal blow and one that will likely be particularly felt by Pope Francis given his friendship with Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II. Indeed, the move overturns in just a few weeks the work which had been ongoing for 50 years.

Last year, Tawadros II made a visit to Rome where amongst a series of historic events he gave an address at the weekly general audience which Pope Francis holds at the Vatican. Following this, Tawadros celebrated a Coptic liturgy inside the Papal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran’s for the Coptic faithful based in Italy.  

READ: Pope Francis hosts Coptic Patriarch at Vatican, approves schismatic liturgy in papal basilica  

The patriarch’s visit to Rome last year was chiefly to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Coptic Patriarch Pope Shenouda III in 1973. During that meeting, Paul VI and Shenouda III signed the “Joint Christological Declaration,” heralded as a breakthrough in relations between the two churches after years of “estrangement,” and which reads in part:

We confess that our Lord and God and Saviour and King of us all, Jesus Christ, is perfect God with respect to His divinity, perfect man with respect to His humanity. In Him His divinity is united with His humanity in a real, perfect union without mingling, without commixtion, without confusion, without alteration, without division, without separation. His divinity did not separate from His humanity for an instant, not for the twinkling of an eye.

At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Coptic Church had rejected the pronouncement on Christ as having a divine and human nature. They accepted Christ as having one nature only, the nature of the Incarnate Word, which united the human and divine nature “without mingling, without confusion, and without alteration.” Roman Catholics profess the human and divine nature are both distinct from one another, but are of course united in the hypostatic union.

Yet, as LifeSiteNews reported last year, Tawadros II’s friendship and determined ecumenical endeavors with Pope Francis are not necessarily shared by the majority of Coptic Orthodox – a fact which appears further supported by their March 7 statement. Tawadros’ Coptic Orthodox clergy view him as making too many concessions and engaging in dangerous ecumenism with the Catholic Church. 

Father Rafic Greiche, former spokesman for the Coptic Catholic Church – which is not to be confused with Tawadros’ Coptic Orthodox Church – stated about Tawadros’ visit to Rome last year that “there’s a lot of discretion” surrounding it, “because a number of Copts and their bishops are against it.”

An “internal source” in the Coptic Orthodox Church argued last year that some Orthodox faithful feared “Tawadros II is going to hand over our Church to the Catholics.”

While Tawadros has been keen to further his relationship with Francis, he has remained clear and unwavering on his condemnation of homosexual activity. Speaking in the context of the 2017 Australian referendum on homosexual “marriage,” Tawadros stated:

When God created man and woman and for them the first family was made by man and woman. This is not acceptable and it is considered as a sin. It’s sin.

LifeSiteNews has contacted the Coptic Orthodox Church, inquiring how the suspension of “theological dialogue” with Rome will affect Tawadros II’s relationship with Pope Francis. This report will be updated upon receipt of a response.