Monday, November 14, 2011

Addis Ababa

I arrived in Addis Ababa on the evening of November 1. I came to visit Fr. Donald Haggerty, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York who just began a new assignment teaching moral theology to Ethiopian seminarians at the Capuchin Institute of Philosophy and Theology. I was extremely pleased to be staying with the Capuchins and was inspired by their witness and impressed by the quality and scope of work being done at the institute.

The Capuchins - like the Church itself in Ethiopia, and the broader culture, too – are a fascinating combination of varying elements. The friary was constructed in a traditional European style, including a courtyard and monastic-type refectory (dining room). St. Francis Church is somewhat western in architecture with a choir in the apse where the friars pray the Liturgy of the Hours. The sanctuary and the choir, though, are divided from the nave by columns and arches decorated with icon-like paintings in the Ethiopian style, giving the impression (almost) of an iconostasis. Icon-type paintings of the Virgin Mary and St. Francis receiving the Stigmata hung on the walls of the choir. Although part of the Latin rite Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, these Franciscans are part of the Catholic Ethiopian Rite and celebrate the Liturgy accordingly. Near the end of my stay I was able to visit the Ethiopian rite Cathedral of Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia is unlike any other part of Africa I have seen. It’s an exotic hybrid of influences from Africa, the Near and Middle East and Europe; the Old Testament, Christian Orthodoxy and Islam; monarchy, communism, dictatorship and democracy – all of which seem to coexist in a curiously symbiotic way, producing a fascinating effect. It has its own languages and alphabet, way of telling time (the hours are counted from dawn instead of midnight) and calendar, unique topography and vegetation, and Ethiopians themselves their own distinctive features. I am looking forward to learning more.

Near the end of my visit I was able to speak with Addis Ababa Auxiliary Bishop Abune Lesamu-Christos Matheos, Fr. Daniel of the Capuchin Institute and the Brothers of St. John (a French religious community serving in the capital) about future possibilities for evangelization efforts in Ethiopia, and hope to return during the next African mission trip in the Spring.

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