The alliance between the Russian Orthodox Church and Ethiopia is strengthened
by Vladimir Rozanskij

Synergy for common defence of traditional Christian morals in the face of "the invasion of liberal ideology". Ethiopian Orthodox experience internal schism reflected in the country's civil war. Now they claim the support of their 'Russian brother' Kirill, unwilling to compromise in diatribes with other Orthodox jurisdictions.


Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Russian Orthodox Church has received a delegation from the non-Chalcedonese Orthodox Church of Ethiopia at the Moscow patriarchate, signing a memorandum with 12 points of cooperation at the ecclesial level, which emphasises the common defence of traditional Christian morals and "opposition to the encroachment of liberal ideology", as informed by the secretary for inter-Christian relations, hieromonk Stefan (Igumnov).

According to a joint statement, "in the context of what is happening in the world and especially in Ethiopia", the support expressed by the head of the Russian Church to the Patriarch of Addis Ababa, Abuna Mathias, and to all the Christians of Ethiopia, and also the solidarity that the Russians receive from the Ethiopian Church "when at the international level attempts are made to discriminate against them", appears very important. Reference was made to recent outbreaks of violence in one of the regions of Ethiopia against representatives of the Church, with church occupations and casualties also among the local clergy.

Igumnov informed that the memorandum also indicates academic collaboration, exchange of students, comparison of experiences in charitable assistance and pastoral work with youth, work in diaspora areas, and various other joint projects, including the sphere of communications. In this way, "believers will be able to learn more about the historical and spiritual heritage of both, plan common pilgrimages and other dimensions of dialogue between Christians."

The Ethiopian Church is considered the third largest in the world, after the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, with 60 million believers. Most of them live in Ethiopia, but the diaspora extends to North America, Europe and other countries in Africa.

It is a very old Church, dating back to the Axum empire and considers the apostolic deacon Philip as its founder. It assumed Christianity as its state religion in the 4th century, like the Armenian Church and the Church of Rome.

The Moscow Patriarchate has long offered its support to the Ethiopian Orthodox in the conflict with the separatist sectors of its Church, and lately this support has been greatly intensified thanks to the hyperactivity of the Russian exarch for Africa, Leonid (Gorba─Źëv), appointed after the break in relations with the Greek Patriarchate of Alexandria.

The internal schism within the Ethiopians was a consequence of the uprisings in the Tigray region, which were barely suppressed, and later also in the Oromia region, where the local priests formed an alternative synod in support of 'the nation and the Oromian people'. Unlike the Tigrinya periphery, the Oromo occupy the central part of the country, a considerable part of the entire surface area.

Ethiopia is a rather fragile federation, and could break up due to various separatist uprisings, but the Church also opposes this with public demonstrations of the faithful, which are suppressed by the police in a rather violent manner.

Now Patriarch Mathias can claim the support of his 'Russian brother' Kirill, who is also very unwilling to compromise in diatribes with other Orthodox jurisdictions and ethnic minorities, from Ukraine to Constantinople.