PETROS III (d. 1607)
Petros was certainly the successor of Krestodolu I, but in Ethiopian documents, information about his episcopate is fragmentary and scant, perhaps explained by the fact that the annals of the sovereigns of his time do not survive. Only the manifesto issued around 1624 by Negus Susenyos (1607-1632) in an effort to explain his joining the Catholic church gives a summary view of this episcopate. Denouncing the conduct of certain metropolitans in Ethiopia, this negus wrote:
Abuna Petros [III], who succeeded this metropolitan [Krestodolu I],
had relations with the wife of a Melchite, and when this fact became
public, he paid the fine levied against any adulterer who corrupts the
wife of another; certain witnesses having knowledge of this are still
living, such as Joseph and Marino, who are foreigners not Ethiopians.
Moreover, to this sin the metropolitan added other misdeeds. In the
seventh year of Negus Ya‘qob's reign, Petros [III] issued a general
excommunication which caused the people to depose Yaqob, exile him
to Ennarya, and replace him with Za-Dengel. Later, he [Petros III] issued
a second general excommunication in order to persuade the Ethiopians
to get rid of Negus Za-Dengel, who was in fact killed [and replaced by
Ya‘qob]. And as if that were not enough, when we [Susenyos] decided
to fight against Negus Ya‘qob, the metropolitan [Petros III] went to war
with him and fell with him on the battlefield.
The essential facts referred to in this passage from Susenyos' manifesto must be summarized. Sarsa Dengel had had no male offspring by his wife Maryam Sena, but at his death he did leave some illegitimate sons. During his life he had designated his nephew
Zadengel (his brother's son) to be his successor, but after his death the court decided instead upon Ya‘qob, who was Sarsa Dengel's
illegitimate son and only seven years old at the time. Guided by a regency council, Ya‘qob reigned until Easter 1596 in the Ethiopian
calendar (A.D. 1604). But because he showed a certain independent spirit, Ya‘qob was deposed and sent to Ennarya, and Zadengel was enthroned in his place. It is to this dethronement of Ya‘qob that Petros first excommunication mentioned by Susenyos refers. A few months later, Zadengel, in turn, found himself in difficulty. He was suspected of wishing to introduce social reform and of leaning
toward the Catholic faith then being preached by the Jesuits. This provoked a reaction among the conservatives of the court, so Petros III thereupon excommunicated Zadengel, who was deposed and killed. A fight for the throne then ensued between Ya‘qob and Susenyos, the son of Negus Sarsa Dengel's cousin. In this fight the metropolitan sided with Ya‘qob and accompanied him on his
military campaign. The first onslaught occurred on 18 Miyazya 1598 of the Ethiopian calendar (A.D. 23 April 1606) at Cacaho, where Petros III was slightly wounded. Susenyos then won the decisive battle that took place at Gol (in Gojam), on 4 Maggabit 1599 of the Ethiopian calendar (A.D. 10 March 1607). During this combat, both Negus Ya‘qob and Abuna Petros III died on the battlefield. According to an Ethiopian source, the metropolitan was killed by a soldier who did not recognize him because he was not wearing his cross.
There are no other data concerning this metropolitan, whose successor was Abuna Sem‘on.
SEM‘ON (d. 1617)
The exact date of the arrival in Ethiopia of the successor to Abuna Petros III is not recorded in Ethiopian documents, but from the information available, it appears that Susenyos (Seltan Sagad; 1607-1632) had him sent from Cairo, no doubt to fill the vacancy
left by the death of Petros III. Sem‘on probably arrived in Ethiopia around 1608, a date that seems to be confirmed by the fact that— according to the Jesuit Pero Páez, who was then in the country— Sem‘on was the metropolitan who proceeded with the solemn coronation of Susenyos in the cathedral of Axum on 23 March 1609. Thus, Sem‘on must have been chosen and consecrated by the Coptic patriarch Mark V (1602-1618).
According to Páez, in 1615 the eccage Zawangel, eighteenth abbot of Dabra Libanos and head of all the regular clergy, asked Susenyos to proclaim that the power to ordain deacons and priests be granted to the eccage, while the power to consecrate the holy chrism (qeddus meron) remain with the metropolitan. But this request could have led to the separation of the Ethiopian church from the Egyptian church, for, according to tradition, the power to confer holy orders belonged only to the metropolitan, while that of consecrating the holy chrism belonged only to the Coptic patriarch. Therefore, Abuna Sem‘on opposed Zawangel request, which was then denied by the negus. As a result there was no schism.
In 1603 the Jesuits had undertaken their work in Ethiopia, and their influence—which was favored by the prudent and clever conduct of Páez—soon spread, above all in the court circles. When Sem‘on perceived the king's inclination toward Catholicism (as well
as that of some members of the royal household), he tried to thwart it. In Jesuit writings Semon is often accused of being the "soul of the rebellion," but it is not difficult to understand that this metropolitan was endeavoring to support those Ethiopian groups fighting to maintain the faith of their traditional church. That is why, when Yolyos, Susenyos' son-in-law, revolted against the king and his religious politics, Sem‘on allied himself with Yolyos, joined with the rebel troops, whom he blessed and urged to fight, and issued an anathema against the royal army. However, victory went to Susenyos, for on 6 Genbot 1609 of the Ethiopian calendar (A.D. 11 May 1617), both Sem‘on and Yolyos died on the battlefield at Sadda. According to the chronicle of Susenyos, the negus sincerely grieved over the metropolitan's death and ordered that he be buried in the church with all honors due his rank. However, in the manifesto issued by Susenyos around 1624, the negus criticized Sem‘on's entire conduct, blaming him not only for having incited
Yolyos to revolt but also for having led a deplorable private life because he had kept several concubines.
According to a report written by the Jesuit Aloysius de Azevedo from Fremona in Tigre and dated 8 July 1619, after Sem‘on's death,
Susenyos hastened to ask the Coptic patriarch—doubtless John XV (1619-1634)—to send a new metropolitan to Ethiopia. De Azevedo added that the new metropolitan, a man of "a certain age" with grizzled hair, left Egypt for Ethiopia but died en route. Since this Coptic bishop, whose very name is unknown, never was able to exercise his duties, it is logical not to include him among the metropolitans of the Ethiopian church.
After this initial request, Susenyos no longer addressed the Coptic patriarchate. In 1622 he publicly embraced Catholicism and in 1626 he received the Jesuit Alphonso Mendez as successor to Páez and solemnly gave him the title patriarch of Ethiopia.
It was only after the abdication of Susenyos, followed by Ethiopia's official return to the faith of the church of Alexandria (1632), that the new negus, Fasiladas, son of Susenyos, could think of asking the Coptic patriarchate to send a new metropolitan. Thus, the successor of Abuna Semon was Abuna Marqos III.
MARQOS III (d. c. 1648)
Marqos was the first metropolitan to arrive in Ethiopia after the abdication of Negus Susenyos and the subsequent restoration in
Ethiopia of the faith of the church of Alexandria; thus he is to be considered the immediate successor of Abuna Semon, despite the
hiatus separating his episcopate from that of his predecessor. He was designated and consecrated by the Coptic patriarch MATTHEW III (1631-1656).
At the beginning of his reign (1632-1667), Fasiladas requested a new metropolitan from Cairo, but according to the account of Peter
Heyling, a Lutheran who resided in Egypt at the time and who was preparing to go to Ethiopia, this first mission "came to nought
because of the infidelity of the emissaries." No details are given about the infidelity, but Heyling's allusion can probably be related to
the passage from the Abridged Chronicle (Béguinot, 1901, pp. 48- 49) that states that toward the beginning of Fasiladas' reign, a false metropolitan named Rizqallah arrived in Ethiopia, where, however, he was discovered and removed from office. Following a new request from the negus, the Coptic patriarch consecrated a monk from the Monastery of Saint Antony (DAYR ANBA ANTUNIYUS) named Ariminios, who took the name of Marqos III. The new abun left Cairo before the end of 1634 with Peter Heyling among his retinue. Near Easter 1635 he reached Sawakin, a Red Sea port that, along with the port of Massawa, was governed by a Turkish pasha. Here he met the Jesuit Alfonso Mendez, former "patriarch of Ethiopia," who had been expelled with his fellow Jesuits by Fasiladas. Delivered into the hands of the Turks, Mendez was waiting in Sawakin to be ransomed and to find a ship for Goa, the
Jesuits' headquarters in India. Since Marqos III was awaiting a ship to Massawa, he met Mendez and friendly relations were established between the two prelates. The metropolitan promised the Jesuit to do his utmost to help the Catholics in Ethiopia, who were exposed to persecution by the new regime. Marqos, moreover, presented to Mendez a letter written at Manfalut, Egypt, on 15 October 1634 by Father Agathange of Vendôme, a subordinate at the Capuchin mission in Upper Egypt. In this letter the Capuchin introduced the Coptic prelate to the Jesuits, who, he thought, still had influence at the Ethiopian court, and warned them against the propaganda plans of the Lutheran Peter Heyling.
Near the end of 1635, Marqos III entered Gonder, which had just been founded by the negus, and upon his arrival he issued certain
moralizing edicts to Ethiopian society. In particular, he objected to the custom of keeping several concubines, which was common,
especially among the nobility. He also tried to help the Catholics, who were suffering under serious difficulties, but perceiving the Ethiopians' resentment against them, Marqos was obliged to keep his silence. Fasiladas then thought of assigning the metropolitan the task of preaching the cause against the Jesuit bishop Apollinaris de Almeida, former coadjutor of Mendez, who had not obeyed the negus's order to leave Ethiopia and was hidden in the countryside. Marqos was able to refuse this assignment, however, but the Jesuit was put to death in 1638. That same year, the French priests Agathange of Vendôme and Cassien of Nantes, from the Capuchin mission in Upper Egypt, entered Ethiopia, where they were discovered and condemned to death (June 1638). Marqos III, who had known them well in Egypt, was powerless to save their lives.
Chiefly because of his restrained temperament, this metropolitan was often in difficulty with the clergy as well as with the court. It
appears that with the idea of gaining the negus's favor, Marqos III revealed to Fasiladas the plot hatched by his brother, Galawdewos (Claudius) to seize power. Galawdewos was, in fact, apprehended and placed in seclusion (November 1646), but it appears that Marqos III never gained the king's confidence. Moreover, in the theological disputes that were then beginning to rock the clergy, this metropolitan avoided taking any clear stand and, as a result, was disliked by all factions concerned. Eventually he was openly attacked by the eccage of Dabra Libanos and head of the regular clergy, who reproached him for leading a licentious life. It is possible, however, that this accusation concealed other complaints. He was dismissed by an assembly of ecclesiastics, and the negus exiled him to a high mountain. According to an Ethiopian source, this occurred in 1640 of the Ethiopian calendar (A.D. 1647-1648). It is presumed that he died during this exile. His successor was Abuna Mika’el IV.
MIKA’EL IV (fl. mid-seventeenth century)
Mika’el was the successor to Marqos III and must have been consecrated by the Coptic patriarch MATTHEW III (1631-1646). Although there is no doubt about this metropolitan's existence, there is little information about his episcopate, because there are no royal annals of Fasiladas' rule. Only the Abridged Chronicle of Ethiopia (Béguinot, 1901, pp. 51-53) records the following for the
seventeenth year of his reign (1648-1649): "At the time two bishops arrived, Abba Mika’el and Abba Yohannes, one by way of Dankali and the other by way of Sennar. Abba Yohannes, who took the first route, was sent to Sarka because he had come at the request of Abeto [Prince] Galawdewos, who did wrong in this. When Abba Mika’el arrived by way of Sennar, he was established as bishop because he had been ordered by the king." From this text it may be understood that Galawdewos, who was brother of the negus and who had plotted to seize power and been denounced by Abuna Marqos III, had asked the Coptic patriarchate to send a metropolitan. Meanwhile, Fasiladas had likewise requested a new metropolitan to replace Marqos III, who had just been deposed. Thus, under these circumstances, the details of which are unknown, it happened that the Coptic patriarch appointed two metropolitans. The first, requested by Galawdewos, arrived in Ethiopia by way of the desert region Dankali, on the coast of the Red Sea. The other, Mika’el, requested by the negus, arrived by the land route from the west. But the negus, reacting promptly, sent Yohannes to Sarka, on the frontier of Sennar, where he probably elected to return to Egypt. Consequently, only Mika’el (IV) should be included in the list of the metropolitans of Ethiopia.
There is no information about his episcopate, the terminal date of which can only be approximated. Since the Abridged Chronicle
records the arrival of Abuna Krestodolu II during the thirty-second year of Fasiladas' reign (1663-1664), it may be presumed the
episcopate of Mika’el IV lasted until about 1660.
During this episcopate, a Christological dispute arose in Ethiopia, one destined to divide the clergy for more than two centuries. This was the question of union and unction. According to the thesis of those favoring union, supported primarily by the monks of the order of Takla Haymanot, whose leader was the eccage, the abbot of Dabra Libanos, the union between the Word and the flesh
made Jesus consubstantial with the Father, while the Holy Ghost represented Divine Grace, which restored to the flesh the dignity lost following Adam's original sin. Conversely, according to the thesis of the Unctionists, supported mainly by the monks of the order of Ewostatewos, coming mainly from the monasteries of Gojam and Tigre, Jesus did not become consubstantial with the Father by the mere union of the Word with the flesh but rather by virtue of the unction of the Holy Ghost. In a synod held during the twenty-second year of Fasiladas' reign (1653-1654), the Unctionists seem to have prevailed, but in another synod, presided over by the negus during the thirty-third year of his reign (1664-1665), the Unionists were able to have their doctrine acknowledged. With this state of affairs, it is permissible to wonder if Abuna Mika’el IV played any role in the first phases of this great controversy and if the end of his episcopate had any connection with it. However, given the present lack of available data, these questions must remain unanswered.
KRESTODOLU II (d. 1679-1680)
Successor of Abuna Mika’el IV, this metropolitan was the second to bear the name Krestodolu, which is the equivalent of the Ethiopian name Gabra Krestos (Servant of Christ). An Ethiopian source, the Annals of Addi Neammin, provides as the date of the
metropolitan's arrival in Ethiopia the year 1656 of the Ethiopian calendar (A.D. 1663-1664). This date is confirmed by the Abridged
Chronicle of Ethiopia, which records it as the thirty-second year of Fasiladas' reign (1663-1664). Thus, it seems evident that this
metropolitan was designated and consecrated by the Coptic patriarch MATTHEW IV (1660-1675).
Some information about Krestodolu's episcopate has been conserved in the chronicle of Negus Yohannes I. During the month of Miyazya 1661 of the Ethiopian calendar (April-May 1669), Krestodolu was called to participate in the assembly that decided upon the expulsion into Sennar of the "Franks," the last descendants of the small Portuguese Catholic community that had been established in Ethiopia. One year later (April 1670), this metropolitan also took part in the council that had been convoked to examine the questions raised by a throng of warrior-monks who had invaded the streets of Gonder. Without doubt, it was still a matter of
the disputes between the Unionists and Unctionists that had arisen during the episcopate of Abuna Mika’el IV, but this time, the differences were aggravated by the fact that the opposing factions anathematized each other and excommunicated all those who did not share their doctrine, including both the negus and the metropolitan.
Shortly thereafter, the metropolitan's situation did indeed become difficult. Negus Yohannes I, who favored the Unctionists, suspected Krestodolu II of leaning toward the Unionists. Thus, he decided to get rid of the prelate and asked the Coptic patriarch
Matthew IV to send a new metropolitan to Ethiopia. Matthew IV sent Abuna Sinoda, who arrived at Gonder on 9 Teqemt 1664 of the
Ethiopian calendar (A.D. 17 October 1671), a date that undoubtedly marks the dismissal of Krestodolu II. Since the royal chronicle allots only a few prudent words to this dismissal, it may be presumed that Krestodolu II received proper treatment for the rest of his life. A single recension of the Abridged Chronicle of Ethiopia notes that he died during the thirteenth year of the reign of Yohannes I (1679- 1680), by which time his successor, Sinoda, had already occupied the episcopal throne for eight years.
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