Ways that Roman Catholic missionaries tried to hose the Ethiopian liturgy

Catholic Missionaries have never had much success in Ethiopia. Their crew still makes up less than 1% of the population. Ayele Teklehaymanot in his piece The Struggle for the “Ethiopianization” of the Roman Catholic Tradition details several ways in which the liturgy was (in his opinion and mine too) unnecessarily “Latinized”.

  • No display of the Tabot (replica ten commandments).
  • Using wafers instead of fresh baked bread.
  • Giving the people bread from the box instead of the table up front.
  • Not using near as much incense.
  • Using a crucifix with a sculpted Jesus on it instead of the traditional stylized Ethiopian cross.
  • Not going barefoot in the church to show that it was a holy place.
  • Having private low masses. The Ethiopian mass is always high (public with lots of personnel)
  • Relaxed fasting traditions, especially in the usually intense week before Easter.

And you thought arguing about whether to have guitars on Sunday was a problem. Ha! All these changes only served to alienate the local Ethiopians and defamiliarize them with the practices they grew up with. It’s no wonder they had trouble swallowing many of the teachings when the form was so disrupted.