On this date on October 7, 2009, Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Patriarch Abuna Paulus was a special guest speaker at the Vatican, invited by Pope Benedict XVI, to speak at the Second Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.
In his speech, the Patriarch describes the legacy of Ethiopia and Africa as a significant place of refuge in the Bible.
The following is a part of this outstanding speech:
In the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit One God, Amen!
Dear participants of this great congress of Cardinals and Bishops.
I feel honored and privileged to be invited to this grand Synod and deliver a brief speech about Africa and Churches in this continent. I am especially grateful to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, who wanted me among you today and who personally witnessed to me his love for Africa and his respect for the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, during our last fraternal meeting here in Rome last June.
Africa is the second largest continent. It is home to all kinds of people with a great variety of colors who live in harmony and equality.
This spectrum of colors is a gift from God to Africa and it adds beauty to the continent. It is furthermore the proof that Africa is a continent where all kinds of people live in equality regardless of difference in color and race. Anthropologists, philosophers, and academicians confirmed that Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular is indeed the cradle of mankind. And the Holy Bible confirms this profound conviction. History, according to the Ethiopian calendar starts from Adam and Noah. That is to say that for the Ethiopians the beginning of mankind, our present and our future is marked today and forever by God and His salvation.
Africa, whose people’s ancient dignity is written in the stones of the Axum obelisk, Egyptian pyramids, of monuments as well as manuscripts, was not only a source of civilization. According to the Holy Bible, Africa was also a refuge for people who were hit by hunger: this is the case of the Jews at the time of Jacob when they spent seven years in Egypt.
The Holy Bible states that the Jews and the prophet Jeremiah who suffered a lot from the aggression of the Babylonians were saved in Ethiopia and Egypt. People who were living in Middle Eastern parts of the world had been relieved from their hunger in Ethiopia and Egypt.
Jesus Christ Himself and Saint Mary were welcomed in Egypt, while fleeing the cruel threat of Herod. It is clear that Africans do care for humanity!
Africa remains a religious continent whose people have believed in the Almighty God for centuries. Queen Sheba had taught her compatriots about the Old Testament which she learnt from Israel. Since then, The Ark of the Covenant is in Ethiopia, in the city of Axum.
The son of queen Sheba, Manlike I, had followed her example and managed to bring the Ark of the Covenant of Moses to Africa, Ethiopia.
The history of the Ethiopian eunuch and the strong, well-organized Law of Moses, and the religious practices and cultures in depth that exist in Ethiopia indicate that the Law of Moses used to be practiced in Ethiopia better than that of in Israel. Still this can be witnessed by studying culture and living style of Ethiopians.
It is in Alexandria, Egypt, where the Holy Bible was translated into non-Hebrew languages. These African translations are known as the “Translation of the Seventy Scholars” (‘Sebeka Likawunt’).
Holy Scripture indicates that like the ancient times in the Old Testament, Africans have the custom of worshiping by the law of conscience in the New Testament period.
The then Ethiopian king of kings, emperor Bazen, was one of the kings who went to Bethlehem to worship the child Jesus.
The Gospel tells us that it was an African, a man from Libya, named Simon of Cyrene took upon himself the Cross of Jesus as He was going to Golgotha.
And behold, an Ethiopian eunuch had come to Jerusalem in 34 AD to worship God in accordance with the Law of Moses. By the order of the Holy Spirit, the eunuch was baptized by Philip. Upon his return to Africa, the eunuch preached Christianity to his nation. Then Ethiopia became the second nation after Israel to believe in Christ; and the Ethiopian Church became the first Church in Africa.
Great stories of faith have marked the first centuries of Christianity in Africa because Africans have always lived a profound charity and a great devotion in the New Testament.
Africa is the region from where celebrated scholars and religious fathers, such as St. Augustinos, St. Tertulianos, St. Siprianos as well as St. Athnasius and St. Kerlos come from. These fathers are celebrated both in the continent and world wide.
St. Yared who has composed beautiful Church hymns and whom the world recognizes for his outstanding creativity, was also originally from Africa. St. Yared is a son of Ethiopia. St. Yared’s hymns are among the wonders of the world for which Ethiopia is known to the world. The deeds of all these Fathers characterize Africa.
According to scholars it is in Africa that the first Canon of the Holy Bible was defined. History also reminds us of the martyrdom of Christians in North Africa when, their kind, a non-believer, raised the sword against them in the effort of completely destroy Christianity. At the same time Christians who were mistreated and persecuted in different parts of the world came to Africa, especially to Ethiopia and have lived in peace in the region.
Devoted Ethiopians have also demonstrated their outstanding hospitality to the nine Saints and other tens of thousands of Christians who were persecuted from Eastern Europe and came to Africa in groups. The residences and the tombs of those persecuted Christians have been kept as sacred shrines in various parts of Ethiopia.
In Africa and in Ethiopia we have pieces of the Holy Cross. The right part of the Cross has been kept in Ethiopia, in a place called Goshen Mountain.
The Cross of Christ was carried also by the Christians of Africa. I am thinking about my Church that recently suffered a hard persecution during the communist dictatorship, with many new martyrs among whom the Patriarch Theophilos, and before him, Abuna Petros, during the colonial period. I myself, then a bishop, spent long years in jail before being exiled. When I became Patriarch, after the end of communism, there was much to be rebuilt. This has been our work, through the help of God, the prayer of our monks and the generosity of the faithful.
Africa is a potentially wealthy continent, with fertile soil, natural resources, and a variety of plants and animal species. Africa has a suitable climate and possesses several precious minerals. For it has been a continent with many untapped natural resources, many have still their eyes on it. It is also undeniable that the civilization gains in other parts of the world is the result of labor and resource from Africa.
Africans have done such blessed works for the world. What has the world done for them?
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