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Catholic and Coptic Orthodox Church Leader Pledge to Recognized Shared Baptism

Christianity is the most popular religion in the world, with more than six billion copies of the Bible printed to date. Within Christianity, Catholicism is the most common denomination, and the leader of this church, Pope Francis, recently traveled to Egypt to make an announcement that shocked many around the world.

During his visit, Pope Francis visited the Coptic Pope Tawadros II and made a mutual promise of recognizing the same baptism rites. This means that if someone is Catholic and would like to become Coptic, they would be able to join the other church without being re-baptized, and vice versa.

Egypt is home to the Coptic Orthodox Church, a denomination within Christianity that has an ecumenical outlook and believes Jesus sent down 72 evangelicals to spread his word. Founded in the first century, this church split from the Roman Catholic Church back in 451 A.D. and has its own pope and clergymen. Believers of the Coptic faith are primarily found in Egypt, where they have been victims of violent persecution in the past few years.

Pope Francis’s surprise announcement was seen as a welcome sign of acceptance for an otherwise persecuted religious minority.

For many Christians, there are two requirements for baptism. First, the person being baptized must accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and he or she must understand what being baptized signifies. However, in the Catholic faith, most people are baptized shortly after birth, when they are still infants. Coptics follow very similar rules, primarily the law that baptism can only be completed once in a person’s life.

In light of this tradition, both popes agreed to recognize the other’s baptism traditions to make the process of joining the other church more inclusive.

Seen as a “sign of hope,” this declaration carries a very significant meaning. In both faiths, requiring a person to be re-baptized means the church does not see the first baptism as valid. But now, these two popes have shown that both churches are part of one governing faith, no matter their differences.

“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,” the popes explained in a statement in Cairo, Ecumenical News reports.

This meeting of the popes is the first since the churches split from each other about 1,600 years ago. It comes at a time when Pope Francis wanted to show solidarity with the people of Egypt. To that end, he also addressed a Muslim-Christian International Peace Conference hosted by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, considered by many to be the highest authority within Sunni Islam.

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