Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church ( Amharic የኢትዮጵያ ኦርቶዶክስ ተዋሕዶ ቤተ ክርስትያን , translit. Yä-Ityop'ya ortodoks tawahdo betä krəstyan ) is an Oriental Orthodox Church in Ethiopia .

The St. Mary of Zion Church is the most important church building in the Tewahedo Church. According to the Tewahedo Church, the chapel on the left houses the Ark of the Covenant
Ethiopian icon with Saint George .
Priest of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church


Tewahedo means - comparable to the Islamic concept Tawheed - "unity" and refers to the union of the two natures in Christ , a theological issue of early Christianity, because of which some groups separated at the Council of Chalcedon , the so-called Monophysites . Whether the Ethiopian Church was Monophysite has not yet been unanimously clarified among scholars. The Church rejects the term "Monophysites" for itself. With the classification and any investigation of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, it should be noted that up to now there are no theological dictionaries of Old Ethiopian in Latin or other languages ​​with the help of which one could translate specialist texts with the necessary reliability.


The Greek historian Rufinus of Aquileia reports on the origin of the Ethiopian Church (around 316) of two brothers, Frumentius and Aidesios, who were attacked on the Red Sea coast on their way home to Tire and sold to the court of the King of Aksum . Thanks to their Greek education, they became educators of the princes and imparted their Christian faith to the royal family. Frumentius later traveled to the Patriarch of Alexandria, Athanasius , and was consecrated by him as Bishop of Aksum . The conversion of King Ezana to Christianity is archaeologically documented by coin finds for the 4th century. Since then, rulers and churches have been closely connected in Christian Ethiopia.

Even after the fall of the Aksumite Empire, Christianity remained in Ethiopia, while Islam spread in neighboring countries . So the Ethiopian Church was isolated from the rest of Christianity. Tekle Haymanot , a monk and saint of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, was partly responsible for the so-called Solomonic dynasty coming to power in 1270 . As a kind of reward, the church received large parts of the country as gifts (most sources speak - probably exaggeratingly - of a third). Ethiopian Orthodox clergy represented the country's educated elite and therefore found employment at the imperial court. The church therefore initially fought vehemently against the introduction of the modern school system by Emperor Menelik II.

For a long time the Ethiopian Church was part of the (now smaller) Coptic Church of Egypt, until it was released into autocephaly in 1950 by the Coptic Pope Yusab II of Alexandria . After Eritrea declared its independence from Ethiopia in 1993, the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church also achieved autocephaly status in 1998 .

The Marxist Derg regime (1974–1991) nationalized the feudal property of the nobles and the church in 1975. But it was not until the constitution of 1994 that church and state were officially separated.


The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is the largest of the family of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, with 35 to 40 million believers (the numbers vary widely). All bishops together form the supreme body of the church, the Holy Synod, which meets twice a year for a general assembly. Abune Paulos stood for her as »Patriarch, head of the Archbishops of Ethiopia, Archbishop of Aksum and Eččagē on the chair of St. Takla Hāymānot «. Only monks can become bishops. These lead the 38 dioceses (as of 2001) at home and abroad. The various areas of church life are coordinated by the Patriarchal Administration in Addis Ababa .

Faith life

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has preserved and developed many cultural and religious independence due to its isolated location in the highlands of the Horn of Africa, surrounded by Muslim countries. Particularly striking are the many echoes of Judaism , which probably arose from the fact that Christian believers identified themselves with biblical Israel through repeated reading of the Old Testament and Jewish forms of faith such as the circumcision of boys, keeping the Sabbath , various purity and dietary regulations etc. developed. In the course of this Judaization process, the legend of the descent of the Ethiopian ruling house arose from a relationship between King Solomon and Makeda, Queen of Sheba ( edited in the Ethiopian national epic Kïbrä Nägäst from the 14th century). Their son Menelik is said to have stolen the ark from the temple and brought it to Ethiopia. With her he introduced Judaism in Ethiopia according to this story . The Ethiopian Orthodox Bible canon includes books in both the Old and New Testaments that are considered apocryphal in the rest of the churches (e.g. the Book of Enoch or the Book of Jubilees ), so that the Bible of this church is the longest of all traditional churches ; see list of biblical books .

As in some Eastern Orthodox churches, male and female monasteries in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church occupy a central position as cultural, social and spiritual centers. The Ethiopian Orthodox monasticism is traced back to the so-called " nine saints ", who probably fled from the persecution of pre-Chalcedonian Christians by the imperial church in the 6th century . The monks and nuns in the approx. 800 Ethiopian monasteries mostly live very poorly, but they hide enormous cultural treasures in their churches (e.g. illuminated manuscripts). From the 6th century to the present day, the monasteries administered the traditional Ethiopian school education , in which mainly clergy were trained. Today the Ethiopian Orthodox Church also has three modern theological training centers, the most important of which is the Holy Trinity Theological College in Addis Ababa.

In addition to the monk priests, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church also knows married priests who enjoy as high a reputation as they do. Together with deacons (who are already ordained in their youth) and the church singers ( däbtäras ), all clerics come together to the enormous number of approx. 400,000. Däbtäras are v. a. responsible for singing and dancing the hymns traced back to St. Jared . At least two priests and a deacon are required to celebrate the Sunday Eucharist . The liturgical language of the church is the sacral language Old Ethiopian , written with the Ethiopian script .

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church knows an abundance of fast days (approx. 200 days) on which no animal products and nothing at all may be eaten or drunk until at least noon. The Ethiopian Orthodox church year does not save on public holidays either. As a special feature within the Christian churches, the Ethiopian Orthodox (Julian) calendar knows monthly holidays.

As the only pre-colonial Christian church in Black Africa that still exists today , the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church has a special symbolic meaning for many Christian Africans and their descendants all over the world. For example, a significant part of the followers of the Jamaican Rastafarian religion now joined the Ethiopian Church. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is considered to be the only missionary active Oriental Orthodox Church.

In today's Ethiopia around 32.1 million (43.5%) people belong to this church, the remaining inhabitants are Muslims (33.9%), Protestants (18.6%) and followers of traditional religions (2.6%). Nevertheless, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church continues to shape Ethiopian society disproportionately. Aware of its historical and current role, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church founded a Commission ( Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission ; DICAC) in 1972 to promote the country's development.

Patriarch since 1959

Abune Tewoflos was arrested and executed by the military junta. His two successors were installed under the supervision of the military junta and not recognized by the Coptic Church. Abune Merkorios, who was forced to abdicate and fled in 1992, is still regarded as a patriarch by a small minority of the communities outside Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Church in Europe

Luther Chapel in Cologne, Ethiopian Orthodox
St. Michaels Church since 2010

Along with the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Ethiopian Church is the only one among the ancient oriental churches in which the majority of the faithful still live in their country of origin. Nevertheless, the number of emigrants who are looking for better living conditions in America or Europe is increasing. In Europe the Church has two responsible bishops: one in Rome and the other in London , each responsible for south-east and north-west Europe.

An episcopal vicar from Northwest Europe has his seat in Cologne . The dean for the German community, Archpriest Merawi Tebege, has been associated with the community for decades. He founded it in the rooms of the Evangelical Luther Chapel, which has been acquired by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church for some time. A large archangel Michael in bronze adorns the entrance of the Mikael church on Lindweilerweg on the edge of the Cologne district of Longerich . The congregation always invites people in the area who are not of Orthodox faith.

The Stuttgart congregation has been celebrating its services since 2007 in the formerly Catholic Church of the Annunciation , today St.-Lideta-le-Mariam - Church , on the Frauenkopf .

The municipalities in Germany, England and Italy are the largest in Europe. In Austria, Ethiopian Orthodox Christians live mainly in Vienna and Graz .


  • Lothar Heiser : Ethiopia raise its hands to God! The Ethiopian Church in her pictures and prayers . (= Series of publications of the Patristic Center Koinonia - Oriens, 49); ISBN 3-8306-7048-6 .
  • Girma Fisseha (Ed.): Ethiopia - Christianity between Orient and Africa . (Exhibition catalog). Munich 2002, ISBN 3-9807561-3-0 .
  • Annegret Marx (Ed.): Get up and go south. 2000 years of Christianity in Ethiopia . Tübingen 2007, ISBN 978-3-932942-28-0 .
  • Karl Pinggéra : The Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Eritrean Orthodox Church . In: Christian Lange , Karl Pinggéra (ed.): The old oriental churches. Belief and history . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2010, ISBN 978-3-534-22052-6 , pp. 41-50 .
  • Rudolf Fischer: The Ethiopian Church and its Pictures . Feldbrunnen 2010, ISBN 978-3-906090-32-0 .

Web links

Commons : Ethiopian Orthodox Church  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Cheers, Gordon (ed.): Christianity . 2000 years of cultural history. Tandem publishing house. Potsdam 2010. ISBN 978-3-8331-5312-9 . p. 21st
  2. Summary and Statistical Report of the 2007 Population and Housing Census Results ( Memento of March 5, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  3. Profiles | Abune Mathias, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church
  4. ^ Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart: Church on the Stuttgart woman's head gives home to Ethiopian Orthodox community ; accessed on April 2, 2018.
  5. World Council of Churches in Austria : The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is a new ÖRKÖ member . March 4, 2011. Retrieved on February 2, 2014: "Since 1998 there has been an Ethiopian Orthodox community in Austria that celebrates its services in Schwechat ( Dreifaltigkeitskirche , Wiener Str. 18)."