The Liberation of the Church and Establishment of the Ethiopian Patriarchate
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. A real productive life that meets the real needs of the people and the need for new patterns and effective participation of the people in the decision-making that determines their future life can only be achieved through liberation. In this case dependency demands the opposite in the improvement of one’s life. 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. (Yesehaq, 83)
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. This continued until the time of Emperor Haile Selassie I. This was done for two reasons, one reason being that Ethiopian church fathers do not as a tradition seek after their own glory but would rather delight in the glory of others. Besides this the saying “…a prophet is without honour in his country.”(John 4:44) is much respected among the Ethiopians. For this and other reasons Ethiopian church fathers resisted appointments to higher position for a long time. This still occurs today when a position is offered to some church fathers they will hide themselves until they are certain the position has been given to someone else.
The second reason is in respect to the Egyptian claim based on the Council of Nicaea (A.D 325) which states that Ethiopians are forbidden to appoint a patriarch from among their learned men, nor can they elect one of their own will, that their spiritual head was to be under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Alexandria for life.
Such a claim based on this matter could hardly be related to the Christian principle and to the God given freedom. The leadership by the Alexandrian patriarchate over the Ethiopian Church had been maintained strictly until the twentieth century and the Ethiopians had humbly accepted this with reverence. However due to problems and poor communication caused by language, it was very necessary for the Ethiopian Tewahedo church to have Ethiopian born bishops who could without difficulty speak the national language, Amharic as well as Geez, the classical language of the church.
New Ethiopian Bishops-May 1929 In 1926 after the death of Abuna Mathewos, Emperor Haile Selassie I, then Ras Tafari, began to negotiate for the appointment of an Ethiopian-born bishop to be head of the church. This was agreed upon by His Holiness Patriarch Cyril V and by the Holy Synod of the Coptic Church. In May 1929, five Ethiopian-born bishops were consecrated for the first time in the history of the church. Archbishop Qerillos, born in Egypt, was consecrated as metropolitan.
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