The World Council of Churches has welcomed the signing of an agreement under which the Catholic Church and Coptic Orthodox Church will recognise each other's baptisms as a "sign of hope".

Roman Catholic Pope Francis and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II signed the agreement on Friday during Pope Francis' two day visit to Egypt. The agreement also commits both churches to work towards a shared formulation of the Lord's Prayer and a common date for the celebration of Easter.

Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC - who was also in Cairo with a WCC delegation, said the agreement is a "sign of hope".

"We are as churches called to be one so that the world may believe," he said. "The text shows the strong intention to give a common witness to the shared Christian faith.”

Rev Dr Tveit said the "contextual and historical dimension" of the agreement was "significant". "The challenging times require that we are committed to pray together, to pray for and with one another, to witness together, and to show this in word and action. Our call to be one is also a call to work for peace and the unity of humankind.”

He added that the agreement has "significant historical dimensions", and pointed back to the unity of the church in its early years which was later broken.