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The Introduction of Christianity

        The beginning of Ethiopian Christianity could be traced to the apostolic era. The Book of Acts gives the account of the Ethiopian Eunuch of Queen Candace, who was first evangelized and then baptized by the apostle Philip (Acts 8:26-36). Eusebius, the great Church historian, refers to the Ethiopian Eunuch as “the first fruit of Christianity in the whole world.”  In addition, Rufinus followed by Theodret, Socrates, and Sozomen also recorded this remarkable event. Nevertheless, it was not until the 4th century that Christianity became the official religion of the Aksumite Empire. This period also saw the inauguration of the Bishop's See and the administration of the sacraments.


        This is because St. Athanasius of Alexandria consecrated St. Frementius as the first Bishop of Ethiopia during the reign of Emperors Ezana and Syzana (also called Abraha and Atsbaha). King Ezana removed from his coins the sign of the moon and replaced it with the sign of the cross. By doing so, he became “the first sovereign in the world to engrave the sign of the cross on coins.” In A.D. 356 the Arian Emperor Constantinos wrote to the king of Aksum requesting that the Orthodox bishop Frementius as “a corrupter of true Christianity be sent back to the Roman Empire.” He wanted the Ethiopian King to become an Arian, but his effort failed.


        St. Frementius came to be known by the Ethiopians as Abba Selama, which means, “the Father of Peace” and Kesate Berhan meaning, “the Revealer of Light”. Moreover, as the first bishop of Ethiopia, he was given the title Abune, meaning “our father,” as an appellation carried henceforth by all primates of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church accepted the three Ecumenical Councils Nicaea (A.D. 325), Constantinople (A.D. 381) and Ephesus (A.D. 431). Therefore, the Nicene-Constantinople creed has become the symbol of our faith.

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