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Ethiopian Church

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One of the Oriental Orthodox Churches. Christianity was introduced into Ethiopia in the 4th cent. by St Frumentius (q.v.) and Edesius of Tyre, and in the early 6th cent. the kingdom of Axum in N. Ethiopia became an important Christian power. The advent of Islam led to the decline of the Ethiopian kingdom from the 7th cent. and to its isolation from the rest of the Christian world. After the restoration of the Solomonic dynasty (claiming descent from the Queen of Sheba and Solomon) in 1270, the Church was revitalized by the reforms of Tekla Haymanot, the founder of the monastery of Debra Libanos, and missionary work was undertaken in the south. In the 16th and 17th cents. the Portuguese sent military aid and missionaries. In 1626 King Susenyos gave his formal obedience to the Papacy and abjured ‘Monophysitism’ on behalf of his people. Public outcry led to his abdication and the expulsion of the Jesuits. The country became closed to missionary activity until the 19th cent. The head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was a metropolitan bishop, or ‘Abuna’, appointed by the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch until 1959, when the Church became independent; its head now has the title of Patriarch. Since 1994 there has been a separate Eritrean Orthodox Patriarch. The liturgical language is Ge‘ez, which died out as a spoken language in the early Middle Ages. Judaic features are a distinctive mark of Ethiopian Christianity. The Ethiopian Bible contains some additional items, such as Jubilees and 1 Enoch. There is a small Uniat Ethiopian Church.

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