Patriarch Abuna Matthias in Rome
Patriarch of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church, Abuna Matthias I, is visiting Rome from 26 to 29 February. The Patriarch will meet Pope Francis on Monday, 29 February. He will also visit the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, as well as the tomb of the Apostle Peter. On Sunday, 28 February, he will celebrate the Divine Liturgy with the Ethiopian community in Rome at the chapel of the Urban College. Abuna Matthias I was elected patriarch of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church on 28 February 2013.
According to tradition, the first great evangelizer of the Ethiopians was St Frumentius, a Roman citizen of Tyre who was shipwrecked on the African coast of the Red Sea. Frumentius was ordained a bishop by St Athanasius of Alexandria. He later returned to Ethiopia to evangelize the country.
The Orthodox Church of Ethiopia belongs to the “family” of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. This unique Church maintained various Jewish practices such as circumcision, dietary customs and observing Shabbat. The Ethiopian Liturgy originally came from Alessandria (Coptic) and has been influenced by the Syriac tradition. Until quite recently, Ethiopian liturgy was always celebrated in the ancient language Ge’ez. Today a translation into modern Amharic is being used increasingly often in parishes. The Church has a strong monastic tradition. Today the Church has 35 million members and it has a large community in Rome.
The Catholic Church's relations with the Ethiopian Church are cordial and are strengthening. The previous Patriarch of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church, Abuna Paulos, visited John Paul II in 1993 and then in 2009 he visited Benedict XVI. In October 2009, at the invitation of the Pope, Abuna Paulos spoke to the second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops on the situation of the continent and the challenges that the African peoples are facing. The Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church officially participates in the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. In January 2012, the Commission was hosted in Addis by Abeba da Abuna Paulos I, who then died on 16 August 2012.