[CIRP Note: Pope Eugenius IV issued a papal bull regarding reconciliation with the Coptic Christians during the Ecumenical Council of Florence. Coptic Christians, in contrast with other Christians, practice male neonatal circumcision. Therefore it was necessary for the Roman Catholic Church to state its position on male circumcision. This is an extract from the Bull of Union with the Copts (1442) that describes the Roman Catholic Church's position on circumcision for Christians.]

Session 11—4 February 1442

[Bull of Union with the Copts]

It [The Holy Roman Church] firmly believes, professes and teaches that the legal prescriptions of the old Testament or the Mosaic law, which are divided into ceremonies, holy sacrifices and sacraments, because they were instituted to signify something in the future, although they were adequate for the divine cult of that age, once our lord Jesus Christ who was signified by them had come, came to an end and the sacraments of the new Testament had their beginning. Whoever, after the passion, places his hope in the legal prescriptions and submits himself to them as necessary for salvation and as if faith in Christ without them could not save, sins mortally. It does not deny that from Christ's passion until the promulgation of the gospel they could have been retained, provided they were in no way believed to be necessary for salvation. But it asserts that after the promulgation of the gospel they cannot be observed without loss of eternal salvation. Therefore it denounces all who after that time observe circumcision, the sabbath and other legal prescriptions as strangers to the faith of Christ and unable to share in eternal salvation, unless they recoil at some time from these errors. Therefore it strictly orders all who glory in the name of Christian, not to practise circumcision either before or after baptism, since whether or not they place their hope in it, it cannot possibly be observed without loss of eternal salvation.

[CIRP note: For more information regarding this papal bull, visit Ecumenical Council of Florence and Council of Basel.]

(File revised 11 September 2004)