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'Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit'

St Matthew 28: 19

Charity No. 282910

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The Foreign Relations of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church after the Council of Chalcedon

A. The Nine Saints


The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church has enjoyed equal status in the episcopacy with other ancient churches until the death of Abba Selama (Frumentius).


Abbas Selama was succeeded by Abba Minas. During his time the Nine Saints came to Ethiopian in 480 AD.  They were:-


Name of the Saint Country of Origin


1. Abba Alef Caesarea

2. Abba Aregawi (Zemichael) Constantinople

3. Abba Aftsie Asia Minor

4. Abba Likanos Constantinople

5. Abba Gerima Constantinople

6. Abba Gubba Cilicia

7. Abba Yimatta Cosia

8. Abba Pantelion Constantinople

9. Abba Tsihima Antioch


The main reason for the coming of the Nine Saints to Ethiopian was that they did not accept the Council of Chalcedon and its resolution; and consequently their persecution Byzantine Empire.


After their arrival they settled in the northern part of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government and its people welcomed the Saints with traditional Ethiopia hospitality. The Saints established monasteries, which are still called after their names, and also introduced monastic life.


After learning Geez, they translated several books from Syriac and Greek languages with the co-operation of Ethiopian scholars.


B. Emperor Caleb


Christianity was widespread throughout Arabia before the reign of Emperor Caleb.  There also existed close relationships between Ethiopia and Arab countries.


The Jews, guided by their leader Phinhas, fled to Southern Arabia during the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 AD, and persecuted the Christians who were living in Nagiran in the 6th century (485-515)


Those Christians who were being persecuted appealed for help from to their brothers in the faith, in Constantinople, Alexandria and Axum.  And the news of persecution was deeply felt by the Ethiopian Church and state. Emperor Caleb, the Orthodox king of Ethiopia, became deeply grieved and prayed to God to show him how he could help the Christians of Nagiran.


Justin, Emperor of Constantinople sent a letter to Timothy the third, Archbishop of Alexandria explaining his sorrow about the suffering of the Christians; and Timothy sent a letter to the Emperor Caleb seeking his help to rescue the Christians of Nagiran.  As soon as he received the letter, Caleb realised that it was the will of God and marched with his armies to Yemen.  Caleb defeated Phinhas and his armies.  He repaired the damage churches and built new ones.  After encouraging and solacing those who escaped from Phinhas, Caleb appointed a wise leader, Abraha, as governor and deployed ten thousand soldiers and returned to Axum.


Then, Emperor Caleb abdicated his kingdom in favour of his son Gebre Meskel and sent his crown as at present to the Ethiopian monastery in Golgotha, Jerusalem.


According to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church canon, Caleb has been regarded as one of the Saints for leading an ascetic life in the monastery for 12 years and for following the good deeds of the fathers.


According to the Ethiopian Synaxariam, he died on May 20, 537 A.D. (E,C.), and this day is observed annually.


After Emperor Gebre Meskel, Ethiopia's foreign relation showed a decline due to the hostile influence of her Muslim neighbours.  In addition to the Egyptian bishops who were appointed in succession, some spiritual fathers also came to Ethiopian.  One of them was the Egyptian saint Abune Gebre Menfeskidus, who came to Ethiopian in the 11th century and established monasteries.  He is wellknown as a saint for his great spiritual acts.

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Archbishop Yesehaq. (1997). The Ethiopian Tewahedo Church. Winston-Derek Pub