, 14 January, 2020 / 4:19 AM
On Saturday, January 11, the Vatican-based institution of higher learning with African roots, the Pontifical Ethiopian College, celebrated 100 years since its inception, an event graced by Pope Francis who acknowledged with appreciation the existence of the facility in Rome.
“At the tomb of the Apostle Peter the children of peoples geographically distant from Rome, but close to the faith of the Apostles in professing Jesus Christ the Saviour, have found home and hospitality throughout the centuries,” Vatican News quoted Pope Francis as saying during the Saturday centenary celebration.
The Holy Father described the existence of the College as “the Ethiopian presence within the Vatican Walls, a presence that has allowed those physically distant from Rome to share in the Catholic faith.”
The Holy Father expressed appreciation for the role the College plays in the formation of priests particularly from the African countries of Ethiopia and Eritrea, which he described as “two Churches united by the same tradition.”
He also described the existence of the institution in Rome as “precious ecclesial tradition” of the Churches in the two African countries and encouraged the leaders to preserve the institution.
Welcoming the College community, Pope Francis recalled the words of an early pilgrim, Tesfa Sion, also known as Peter the Ethiopian who said, “I myself am Ethiopian, a pilgrim from place to place… but nowhere, except in Rome, have I found peace of mind and body: peace of mind because here is the true faith; peace of body, because here I have found the Successor of Peter, who favours us in our needs.”
Referencing recent attempts by governments in the two African countries to interfere with the operations of the Church, the Holy Father expressed the hope “that the Church in both Ethiopia and Eritrea might be guaranteed the freedom to serve the common good” in such a way that “pastors and faithful alike want to contribute to the good and prosperity of your nations.”
To mark the 100th anniversary, the Ethiopian and Eritrean communities in Rome celebrated Holy Mass Sunday, January 12 with the Archbishop of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Souraphiel Cardinal Berhaneyesus as the main celebrant.
Archbishop Menghesteab Tesfamariam of Eritrea’s Asmara Archdiocese, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Leonardo Cardinal Sandri, and the Secretary of the Prefect of Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Jesuit Archbishop Cyril Vasiľ were among the Prelates who concelebrated at the Sunday Mass at the Vatican.
According to Rome Reports, more than 300 students have gone through the Pontifical Ethiopian College since its inception.
Meanwhile, the history of Ethiopians at the Vatican dates back to the papacy of Pope Sixtus IV who allowed Ethiopian pilgrims to use St. Stephen of the Abyssinians Church in the Vatican Gardens in the 15th century.
Five centuries later, Pope Benedict XV established the Pontifical College. Pope Pius XI enlarged the institution of higher learning during his papacy.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa