By Virginia Forrester

Pope Francis on January 11, 2019, received in audience the community of the Pontifical Ethiopian College in the Vatican, on the occasion of the centenary of its foundation.

Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to those present at the audience.

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The Holy Father’s Address

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I’m happy to receive you today and to be grateful together for the one hundred years of the Ethiopian College. I greet the Bishops from Ethiopia and Eritrea, among them the two Metropolitans, Cardinal Berhaneyesus and Monsignor Tesfamarian; the students’ community with the Superiors, in particular, the Father Rector and the Vice-Rector; the women religious that are so committed to caring for you, and the lay personnel. I greet Cardinal Sandri and Monsignor Vasil’ and I thank the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, which sustains the College’s life, thanks also to the benefactors, to whom I also express my gratitude. I greet the Capuchin Friars with the Minister General; the representation of the Pontifical Oriental Institute and the numerous Ethiopian and Eritrean priests and friars.

The Ethiopian presence within the Vatican walls, at first of the Church and of the pilgrims’ hospice, and for one hundred years of the College, takes us back to a word: hospitality. Children of geographically remote peoples, but very close to the faith of the Apostles in professing Jesus Christ Saviour, have found a home and hospitality throughout the centuries near the tomb of the Apostle Peter.

Very beautiful are the words of the great monk Tesfa Sion, Peter of Ethiopia, on the tombstone in the church of Saint Stephen of the Abyssinians, where today and tomorrow you will celebrate the liturgy: “I myself am Ethiopian, pilgrim from place to place […]. However, in no place, except in Rome, have I found peace of spirit and body; peace of spirit because the true faith is here; peace of body, because I have found here the Successor of Peter, who favors us in our needs.” With his wisdom, he enriched the Roman Curia and took care of the printing of the New Testament in Ethiopian.

You student priests from Ethiopia and Eritrea, two Churches united by the same tradition, bring in our midst also today the richness of the history of your lands, with its ancient traditions, the coexistence between men and women belonging to the Jewish and Islamic religions, as well as together with numerous brothers of the Tewahedo Orthodox Church. I was able to meet the Patriarch here at Rome, His Holiness Matthias of Ethiopia, to whom I send my fraternal greeting.

Meeting with you, I think of your many brothers and sisters of Ethiopia and Eritrea, whose life is marked by poverty, and up to a few months ago, a fratricidal war, for whose conclusion we thank the Lord and those that in the two countries were committed personally. I pray always that a treasure is made of the years of sorrow lived by both sides, and that countries with common roots never fall again into divisions between ethnic groups. You priests can always be architects of good relations, peacemakers. May you be able to educate the faithful that will be entrusted to you to cultivate this gift of God, and to medicate the internal and external wounds that you will find, and seeking to help paths of reconciliation for the future of the children and the young people of your lands.

Many of them, it’s sad to have to recall it, driven by hope have left their homeland with immense effort, meeting not rarely with tragedies by land and by sea. I am grateful for the hospitality that your faithful have been able to experience and for the commitment that some of you already now live in following them pastorally in Europe and in other Continents. Much can still be done and better, be it in the homeland as well as abroad, bringing to fruition the years of study and sojourn in Rome, in a humble and generous service, always on the basis of union with the Lord to whom we have given here our whole existence. I encourage you to protect the precious ecclesial tradition, always united to the missionary impetus. I also hope that the Catholic Church in your Nations will be guaranteed freedom to serve the common good, be it by allowing you students to carry out your studies in Rome or elsewhere, be it by protecting the educational, health and welfare institutions in the certainty that the Pastors and faithful desire with everyone else to contribute to the good and prosperity of your Nations.

As children of the Churches of Ethiopia and Eritrea, love much the Mother of God, Mary Most Holy. In fact, you describe yourselves as Resta Maryam, fief, property of Mary,” and in the monthly liturgical remembrance of the Kidana Mehrat, Pact of Mercy,” know that you are able to entrust to her intercession every prayer, every supplication. I ask you also, in that remembrance, to always say a prayer for me and for my intentions.

I thank you and impart to you the Apostolic Blessing: may it reach your families, your Eparchies and your peoples Thank you!

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

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