Ecclesiastical Communion

On 11 January 2019, in Rome, the Primate of the Autocephalous Ancient Oriental Italian Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Alexander I, now Archbishop Emeritus of Italy, signed an agreement of ecclesial communion and official recognition with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, commonly known as Tewahedo, with Abba Heryacos Legesse, Meropolite for Europe.

This agreement was signed thanks to the strong relations of Vicar General Father Cosma, now Primate of the Italian Autocephalous Old Eastern Orthodox Church, in his former capacity as spokesman in Italy of Abune Paulos, Patriarch of Tewahedo.

The Tewahedo originated from an official of the Axumite king who was baptised by Saint Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven deacons.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church since its foundation by Abuna St. Frumentius in the 4th century had a close relationship with the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria until 1959, when the Ethiopian nation wanted its own Patriarch, independent of the Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria Cyril VI. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is a non-Chalcedonian Church, i.e. it does not recognise the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon.

Originating with the conversion to Christianity of the Axumite king Ezanà and then the entire Axumite kingdom, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is the only indigenous Ethiopian Christian Church of ancient tradition and direct apostolic derivation in sub-Saharan Africa. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has a faithful following of between 40 and 45 million people, most of whom live in Ethiopia, making it the largest of all the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is one of the founding members of the World Council of Churches.

The Tewahedo Church contains 81 books of Biblical Canons. These canons are accepted by other Orthodox Christians.

Tewahedo (in Ge’ez ተዋሕዶ) is a word in the Ge’ez language meaning “is made one” or “unified”. This word refers to the Eastern Orthodox belief in the one and unified Nature of Christ; that is, of a complete natural union of human and divine natures (not mixed, but not separated: this union is called Hypostatic) in order to bring about the salvation of mankind in contrast to the belief in “the two natures of Christ” professed by the Roman Catholic Church. According to the Catholic Encyclopaedia, in an article in the Henotikon, about 500 bishops in the Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem refused to accept the doctrine of Diphysism (“of the two natures”) decreed by the Council of Chalcedon in 451, thus separating themselves from the main body of the Christian Church (which would later split in the 11th century, for different reasons, into the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church).

The Oriental Orthodox Churches, which today include the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church of Malankara in India, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Tewahedo Orthodox Church of Eritrea are referred to as “non-Chalcedonian”, and sometimes as “Monophysite” (meaning “one single nature”, referring to Christ).