Above: Flag of Ethiopia, 1700s
Image in the Public Domain
BLESSED ANTONIO FRANCESCO MARZORATI (SEPTEMBER 10, 1670-MARCH 3, 1716)
BLESSED JOHANNES LAURENTIUS WEISS (JANUARY 4, 1675-MARCH 3, 1716)
BLESSED MICHELE PRO FASOLI (MAY 3, 1676-MARCH 3, 1716)
Franciscan Missionary Priests and Martyrs in Ethiopia
Religious persecution comes in two varieties: that of adherents of a faith by people outside of it and that of adherents of a faith by other adherents of it. This post concerns the latter variety.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church stands apart from much of the rest of Christianity in certain regards, perhaps most notably with regard to its canon of scripture, which includes the books of Enoch and Jubilees, the Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, 1 and 2 Esdras (as 3 and 4 Ezra), and 3 Maccabees. The Ethiopian Orthodox canon also divides Proverbs into two books, with Proverbs 25-31 being Tasgas. The Ethiopian Church also stands with certain other ancient denominations in its Monophysitism, the idea that Christ had only a divine nature. Although Vatican II changed the relationship of the Roman Catholic Church to the rest of Christianity, Holy Mother Church retains her definition of herself as the repository of the “fullness of faith” and the rest of us in Christianity have become “separated brethren.” Although this is better than declaring that we are hellbound heretics, it is patronizing. I, as an Episcopalian, do not lack the fullness of Christian faith. Neither did I lack the fullness of Christian faith when I was a United Methodist, the context for the formation of my faith.
Monophysitism is a heresy, however. Nevertheless, I have no reluctance in recognizing my Ethiopian Orthodox brethren as Christians.
In 1712 three Franciscan missionary priests–the Italian Antonio Francesco Marzorati and Michele Pro Fasoli, as well as the Bavarian Johannes Laurentius Weiss–arrived in Ethiopia. Emperor Yostos (reigned 1711-1716) allowed them to teach, travel, and operate a small hospital, but not to preach. The newly installed Emperor Dawit III (reigned 1716-1721) was openly hostile to the missionaries in his realm. An ecclesiastical court declared our saints to be heretics and sentenced them to die by stoning at Gondar. Marzorati, Fasoli, and Weiss could have saved their lives by renouncing their faith, but they chose not to do so. They became martyrs, with a boy (whose name I have not found), who accompanied them, on March 3, 1716.
Pope John Paul II declared these three priests to be Venerables then Blesseds in 1988.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
JANUARY 2, 2017 COMMON ERA
THE NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS
THE FEAST OF JOHANN KONRAD WILHELM LOEHE, BAVARIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND COORDINATOR OF DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN MISSIONS
THE FEAST OF SAINTS NARCISSUS, ARGEUS, AND MARCELLINUS OF TOMI, ROMAN MARTYRS
THE FEAST OF SAINT ODILO OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT
THE FEAST OF SABINE BARING-GOULD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER
Almighty God, who gave to your servants
Blessed Antonio Francesco Marzorati,
Blessed Johannes Laurentius Weiss,
and Blessed Michele Pro Fasoli,
boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ
before the rulers of this world,
and courage to die for this faith:
Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us,
and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2 Esdras 2:42-48
Psalm 126 or 121
1 Peter 3:14-18, 22
–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 713