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Cardinal Massaja and the Catholic Mission in Ethiopia


DSC09904On 17th January, 2014, the date scheduled for the book launch, Sr Olga, Sr Hellen Joseph both from Paulines Publications Africa and Fr Haile Gabriel Meleku OFM, who is the Pastoral Co-ordinator from Ethiopia Catholic Secretariat, drove to Capuchin Franciscan Institute of Philosophy and Theology Major Seminary, the Venue of the Lauching. The Seminary rector had organized all what we had requested him to ensure that the environment was conducive. He had even called off the lectures on that day so that the seminarians could attend the launching.

By nine O’clock, a good number of people had turned up, including the guest of Honour; His Grace Archbishop Berhaneyesus of Addis Ababa, three other Bishops, Monsignor Croce; Vicar General of the Diocese of Asti (native place of Cardinal Massaja), Professor Mauro Forno the author of Cardinal Massaja, Secretary General, Professor Shiferaw, Vice Provincial of OFM Capuchin, various Major Superiors of different congregations, priests, seminarians and lay people.

Sr Olga welcomed all the participants and expressed the gratitude and appreciation on behalf of the Daughters of St Paul for the opportunity given to Launch the book Cardinal Massaja to Ethiopian Catholic Church. In her speech, Sr Olga informed the audience that, our Founder Blessed Alberione in late nineteen thirties, directed and produced a film called Abuna Messias (Bishiop Massaja) which in 1939 won the prize of Venice festival as best acting film.

The Presenters of the book were: Msgr Croce, Prof. Shiferaw (prominent figure in the contemporary studies of Ethiopian modern history), Bishop Mussie and Prof. Mauro. The presenters acknowledged that Cardianal Massaja was a great missionary of 19th Century in Ethiopia. He was a prominent figure of considerable role in Ethiopia because of his diplomacy in 1870s and he established many mission stations in Oromo region. He evangelized Ethiopia, fought against slave trade and conditioned the expansion of Islam and Protestant Churches in Ethiopia.

However, he became a controversial figure because of his involvement in politics. His controversies can only be understood by DSC00468looking at the historical context in which Cardinal Massaja acted and lived. One controversy was that the Italian state attempted to use his services as a forerunner during Italian colonial rule in Ethiopia. Therefore, the Ethiopian Church was not pleased. The presenters clarified all the controversies during ‘Question and Answer’ session, and Bishop Mussie reported that the beatification of Cardinal Massaja is now getting the momentum especially with this new book. He also confirmed that Prof. Mauro has added a precious resource book to Ethiopian History and if possible, to be translated in Amharic language in order to be accessible to Ethiopians.

The Archbishop launched the book by asking the participants to lift their copies which they had already bought at half-price and he prayed over them. The interviewed people at the end of the launch expressed their joy of having participated in this successful event which added more light to their knowledge of Cardinal Massaja.

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