The patriarch of the Coptic Church, Pope Shenouda III, has added his voice to others in response to the recent Vatican answers to certain questions about the relationship between the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies. Saying to the effect that Pope Benedict doesn't know when to quit, he opines that first, in Benedict's Regensburg speech, he infuriated Muslims, he has now turned himself to other Christians and said that they were inferior. Of course, anyone who reads the document, plus Dominus Iesus or Unitatis Redintegratio will see that nothing has changed in the attitude of the Church toward other Christian churches. Whether or not we "needed" this recent clarification I don't know. That being said, one has to consider the position of Pope Shenouda. I don't mean his theological position, but rather his political position. See my blog for 9/18/06. The Alexandrian Patriarch is in Egypt, remember, surrounded by militant Muslims who are constantly harassing Coptic Christians, attacking their churches, raping and murdering their people. The Pope's political position makes it impossible for him to speak out against Muslim atrocities and almost makes him a catspaw in the hands of the Muslim ascendancy. (As an aside, think of the advantage of having the head of your church, and your whole church for that matter, independent from the state in its headquarters reside. Can you say "Vatican?")
How then should we take any comments by Pope Shenouda? With a grain of blessed salt, I think. We can never know what he really thinks when he has to keep his comments totally unoffensive to the Muslim overlords. Isn't it also funny that the Grand Mufti of Cairo has made a pledge with the Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus to protect the Orthodox churches that are in the Turkish controlled part of Cyprus? Why can't he do the same for the Copts?
Let's anoint this with the prayer for the Unity of Christians from the Roman Missal:
Almighty and eternal God. You keep together those you have united. Look kindly on all who follow Jesus your Son. We are all consecrated to you by our common baptism; make us one in the fullness of faith and keep us one in the fellowship of love. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.