LEBNA DENGEL (PRESTER JOHN)
Having recieved the letter of Lebna Dengel, King Joam of Portugal declared: "...The way had been opened to the Powerful Christian King,
Prester John, who with all his realms and people adored Jesus Christ, and who, by the reasoning and argument
of King Manuel's ambassadors, had been induced to submit to the See of Saint Peter, Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth,
to whom all Christian Princes owe homage".
The King of Portugal and The Pope of Rome assumed that because Lebna Dengel wanted an alliance with Christians in the Middile East, he wanted to unite the Ethiopian Church with Rome. This was not so, Lebna Dengel being attached to his faith told them that he was not inferior to them in power or religion, for in his realms he was the pillar of faith, having need of no other succor than of God in whom he put his trust. His wish was not to change his religion, but to establish an alliance with a neighbouring Christian country, in order to protect the Red Sea, the coasts, and the islands therein.
The Liberation of the Church
The essence of the development of the Ethiopian church is always to be found in its history. As can be seen from the following simplified account, it was a signal for the beginning of the main task to be accomplished in the future.
Establishment of the Ethiopian Patriarchate
The church being free shows with great evidence that the major problems of society are being solved and the needs and hopes of a large number of people are being realized.
From the beginning the Ethiopian church was affiliated with the See of Saint Mark of Alexandria. After Abba Selama (Father of Peace / Frumentius) first bishop of Ethiopia, died, Egyptian bishops from Alexandria were appointed to head the Ethiopian church.
The Jesuits And Their Offensive Mission
After the death of Ahmed Gran there was a gradual deterioration of harmony between the two types of Christians, Ethiopians and Catholics. The reason was that Bermudez insisted that Emperor Galawedos should submit himself to the Roman Pontiff. Bermudez himself wrote an account of an occasion when he tried to get the Emperor to submit to the Pope. On this occasion he arrived at the king’s tent and found him with his mother, Bermudez was received with much honour. He then addressed the Emperor: “...Much beloved son in Jesus Christ, you are aware of the fact that the most Christian King, your father now in glory, asked me to go to Rome, for himself and for myself to give submission to the High Pontiff; you may see here a letter signed by him which he gave me, that the high Pontiff might believe that your father recognized him as the successor of St. Peter of the Apostles of Christ – and that he considered himself subordinate to him with all his Kingdoms and lordships as were all the faithful and orthodox Christian Kings. Therefore conforming yourself with the will of God, you should submit yourself to the Holy Father, the Roman Pontiff.”
He further stated that if the emperor submitted he would be obeying God’s orders. He would then have in necessity for friend’s brothers and helpers, the kings of Portugal and all other Christian Kings. Galawedos refused to withdraw his link with Alexandria; he stated that Bermudez was not his spiritual father, nor a prelate but patriarch of the Franks and the Portuguese. Galawedos further warned Bermudez not to call himself his spiritual father in the future “… And that he would not obey the Holy Father of Rome”. Bermudez said, “ I held him to be excommunicated, and accursed. He (Galawedos) replied that I was excommunicated not him.”
A few days later a conflict arose between the Portuguese and Ethiopians. According to Bermudez, "..there were three entrances to the camp of the Portuguese, by which the Ethiopians could attack them". The Portuguese collected ammunition to fight as hard as they could. "..The ammunitions collected at those places were concealed powder pots, which they could ignite when the enemy came, and thus burn them..." Before the Ethiopians attacked, the Portuguese "...horse-men sailed out at midnight and beat up the King's camp". Then the Emperor's "...troops attacked all the three entries that led to our camp where the powder was. The powder was fired, and several of them were burned and killed, and the rest fled, scalded and roasted".
Bermudez added:"... the King, seeing the loss of his men, tore the rich garments he wore", which is the sign of great grief among the Ethiopians. At this time Abuna Joseph was on his way to Ethiopia from Alexandria. In order to avoid further conflict, the Emperor arranged that Bermudez and his people should settle in a certain section of the Province of Doara. They were given a lot of territory for their support. Nevertheless, they argued with the local people about submission to Rome and fought with the people of Doara. They killed the governor of the province Calide and many poor Ethiopians and forced many of the rest to submit to Rome and the catholic faith.
As a result Bermudez was imprisoned and deported to Goa. After his failure Pope Julius III and the King of Portugal "came to a resolution of sending another Patriarch and two Bishops". John Nuguez Barretti was chosen for the Patriarchate and Melchior Carneyro and Andrew Oviedo as bishops. Along with them came an Ambassador and ten Jesuits, only Oviedo reached Ethiopia the rest stayed at Goa and one died there (Barretti).
Oviedo and the Jesuits prepared “ a treatise on the Ethiopian errors and the infallibility of our holy faith”, they further issued a circular letter in which they advised Catholics and the Portuguese to have nothing to do with such “Schimatricks”; the letter also condemned Ethiopians as refractory and Obstinate against the Church. It urged Ethiopians to forsake their religion and rebel against their king. Galawedos replied in a spiritually inspired document entitled confession of faith, which was accompanied by a final declaration “ never to submit to the See of Rome”. The Document stated: "In the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit, One God, this is my Faith and the Faith of my fathers the Kings, and the Faith of my flock, which is in the fold of my kingdom. “…We believe in one God and in his only son Eyesus Kristos, who is his word and power.” And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Vivifying Lord, who proceedeth from the Father. Thus do I proclaim and thus do I teach, I Galawedos, King of Ethiopia, in the name of my Kingdom, Atnaf Sagad the son of Wanag- Saged, the son of Noad.”
Thus, because of this declaration, The Jesuits were surprised to find that the king had no intentions from withdrawing from the faith of his ancestors. As a result, when Dom Sebastian, the sucessor to the Portuguese crown, learned about Galawdewos' unwillingness to accept Catholicism, he entreated Pope Pius V to recall the missionaries in Ethiopia and send them into China, Japan and other places where their labour might be more effective. This proposal was accepted, and in 1566 the pope issued an Order that Oviedo and the rest of the Jesuits leave Ethiopia and transfer to China and Japan. Oviedo replied:"...It would be more proper to send them assistance than to recall them, and that if he could obtain only 500 Portuguese soldiers he could not only bring the Ethiopians into the Roman Church, but many other nations and neighbouring princes, related to the King of Abyssinia". This demand was rejected by the King of Portugal. Seeing that he was not sucessful in his plan, Oviedo joined forces with the rebel governor of the sea, Isaac(the Bahrnagash), and with the Turks and other Moslems who at that time were at war with the Ethiopian Goverment.
However before completing his plan, Oviedo died at Fremona and his companions in the Jesuit mission followed him to the grave one after the other, including Francesco Lopez, who was buried in 1597. The continuous destruction by the Turks was disastrous for Ethiopia and the church. Galawdewos was killed by Ahmed Gran's nephew Nur and his head "..was claimed by Nur to show to Del Wambera, Ahmed Gran's widow, and it was afterward carried to Antioch and was placed in the tomb of St. Claudius who had suffered martyrdom during the persecution of the Christians under Diocletian". However, this did not end the conflict.
It continued until the reign of Emperor Fasiladas, who was against the Jesuits' missionary action in the country and who banished them first to Fremona and afterwards from all the land of Ethiopia.
*The Society of Jesus had just been founded in 1558, and Ignatious Loyola pleaded with the reigning pope for permission to inaugurate his new life with an Ethiopian Mission. He was not allowed to go. Instead the pope nominated the three bishops, among whom only Oviedo reached Ethiopia.
The Great Conflict
The great conflict between Ethiopia and the Roman Catholic Christians may be regarded as a force natural to beasts and not men, made in the image of God. The Origin of Christian teaching is not founded externally
and does not apply to destruction. It is an inward and spiritual power that permits each person to grow according to his needs. To be specific
Christianity was introduced to assume various things for all spiritual and moral needs of mankind and to bind all men to Christ.
Emperor Lebna Dengel in his letter to the King of Portugal was correct when he said "...I believe a thing which truly belongs to our common
honour because we agree in the Christian faith".
The emperor understood very well that Christian people ought to work in unity and cooperation for the entire church of Eyesus Kristos and for their spiritual growth. Of course, this must be done without forcing others away from what they remain attached, because such ideas bring conflicts among nations, as we have already seen in the revolt that broke out when the Roman Christians attempted to bring the Ethiopian Christians under the pope of Rome.
The attitude of the Jesuits is a very ugly subject to deal with although it is something that must be told to the generations following. Sometimes it is very difficult to understand whether these Jesuits were Christians or anti-Christians. Apparently they did not come to Ethiopia with the Gospel of Christ to preach peace and love among people.
Instead they came on political missions carrying with them not the Almighty God, but almighty swords and guns that caused the death of thousands of Ethiopians. From the start, Emperors Lebna Dengel and Galawdewos had made it clear to the popes of Rome and kings of Portugal that there was no need for Jesuits to come, as Ethiopia was already a Christian nation. The popes of Rome and the Portugal kings had no ears for this. Instead, they forced themselves in vain effort to convert Christians to Christianity.
(The Ethiopian Tewahedo Church, yesehaq p.57)
The first community The Emperor visited after being greeted at the Piarco International Airport by Prime Minister Eric Williams, was the Borough of Arima....
King of Kings Visitation 1966
The Ethiopian church in Jerusalem was one of the first established Christian churches there. Soon after the resurrection of our Lord Eyesus Kristos, Ethiopians began streaming to the Holy Land,
Jerusalem The Holy Sepulchre
Throughout its history in Jamaica, the Church suffered greatly because it came to the Rastafarian faithful whose desire is to motivate their lives through the church.