• Short Summary

    Ethiopian Christians have been celebrating the religious festivals of Demera and Meskal. The main Demera?

  • Description

    Ethiopian Christians have been celebrating the religious festivals of Demera and Meskal. The main Demera observance was held din the capital, Addis Ababa, on Monday (26 September).

    SYNOPSIS: In accordance with the traditions of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Meskal is observed annually to commemorate the finding of the true cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. Demera is the eve of Meskal, and is marked by religious services and the lighting of huge bonfires. It's a time for priests and the people to mingle and everyone wears their most lavish costumes and robes. The main Demera ceremony was held in Addis Ababa's Revolution Square and was presided over by the church's Patriarch, Tekle Haimanot.

    Ethiopia has been a Christian country since the fourth century, although there is also a large Muslim community there as well. Towards the end of the fifth century nine monks from Syria introduced their own way of life. Two hundred year later conquests by Muslim Arabs cut off the Ethiopian church form its Christian neighbours, except for the minority Coptic Church in Egypt. Later Portuguese priests tried to introduce Roman Catholicism into Ethiopia but after a decade of struggle the country rejected it and the missionaries were sent home.

    This century the Ethiopian Church began to press for complete independence from the Coptic Church, from which it had always taken its archbishop. This was finally achieved in 1959, when the Ethiopian archbishopric was raised to a patriarchate. Although consecrated by the patriarch of Alexandria in Egypt, the patriarch of Ethiopia is fully independent of the Coptic Church. The church shares the general characteristics of the eastern churches. Lay officials -- called dabtaras -- play a leading part in church affairs and are expert in theology. The priesthood generally is not learned. Secular priests may marry. Regular Priests, belonging to monasteries, may not. The church holds that Christ has one nature but insisignhe is perfectly human as well as perfectly divine. Several customs of Jewish origin are still observed including the use of an ark in churches, and as the focal point of all outdoor festivals.

    On Demera, in accordance with custom, the Patriarch shows the treasured golden cross to the people and blesses the congregation.

    Then it's time for the symbolic bonfire to be lit. This year Addis Ababa's mayor had the honour of igniting it watched by the 60,000 people who packed the square to take part n the ceremonies.

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