At a meeting with a group of young people during his visit to the UK on Wednesday, Pope Tawadros II denied that he had agreed with Pope Francis to cancel baptism.
The joint declaration issued by the Orthodox and Catholic Churches during Pope Benedict’s visit to Egypt last week on the secret of baptism is comprised of three parts, he said.
The first part talks about relations between the two churches in the past, he said, pointing out that there was a belief in the East that Christianity had no denominations during the first 500 years of Christianity.
The second part of the declaration speaks of the present, and the first meeting between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in 1973, 44 years ago, when the two churches agreed to establish a joint committee of theological dialogue, he elaborated.
The third part of the declaration talks about the future relations between the two churches, said Tawadros.
The document that was signed on the sacrament of baptism attempts to ensure that a Christian follower of the Orthodox Church would not be baptized in that church if he or she wants to join the other church, he said. “It is a first step towards rapprochement, not an agreement,” he explained.
Queen Elizabeth II of Britain received Pope Tawadros II at Windsor Castle on Tuesday evening during his first visit to Britain since his papacy.
Tawadros described Pope Francis’s visit to Egypt as “a tribute to Egypt” and that his first motive was his love for the Orthodox Church in Egypt.
Tawadros said Francis stated that his love for the Egyptian Church increased due to the high number of Coptic martyrs in the recent terrorist attacks.
The declaration signed by Pope Francis and Coptic Pope Tawadros II stating that Catholics and Copts will for the first time recognize each other’s sacrament of baptism stirred wide controversy among Coptic Christians in Egypt.
The websites affiliated to the Catholic Church reported that the common declaration states that there is no need for a second baptism for Christians who convert from one Church to another.
However the Coptic Orthodox Church issued a statement in which the official spokesperson confirmed that there were only attempts at mutual recognition of baptism.
Church sources said that some bishops of the Holy Synod and Coptic Orthodox youth declared their refusal of the agreement, with the wording “seek agreement” on mutual recognition of baptism.