Egyptian Christians set to unify in ecumenical council

(Photo: Reuters / Mohamed Abd El Ghany)Egyptian Muslims and Christians celebrate Coptic Christmas eve mass, at Cairo's Tahrir Square in Cairo on Jan. 6, 2013.

Egyptian Christians have announced the formation of a national council of churches to unite different denominations on social and political issues in February.

Coptic Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Evangelical, Episcopal and Greek Orthodox churches are scheduled to form the council in which they will unify ecumenical work in the Egyptian Council of Churches on Feb. 18.

"This is not a unity in issues of dogma; the churches will not hold joint masses or unite rituals, It's an organizational move to unite Christians in Egypt on issues that affect them all," Egypt's Daily News quoted Coptic lawyer Naguib Gabriel saying.

The Egyptian Churches Council is scheduled to hold its first meeting, chaired by Pope Tawadros II Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the largest church in the country where Christians make up about 10 percent of the 80 million people in Egypt.

Gabriel said the council will try to bring ideologies closer and "it will discuss political stances of Christians on important issues like the constitution, laws and the personal status law."

Gabriel said an agreement on personal status laws might be a challenge because of differences between denominations, but the general outlines can be agreed upon.

He noted the idea for such a church body had been mooted for some time saying, "The council will be a national version of the Middle East Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches."

The Coptic Orthodox Church is a member of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches.

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