Saint Frumentius

Saint Frumentius was the first bishop of Askum. He is credited with bringing Christianity to the Askumite kingdom, in the area that is now in Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, in the Tigray region, home to our Connect2 project in Sebeya.

The Roman Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St Frumentius on 27 October.

Frumentius was a Syro-Phoenician Greek born in Tyre. With his brother, he was captured as a boy, and they became slaves to the King of Axum. He freed them before his death, and they were invited to educate his young heir. Frumentius traveled to Egypt Alexandria, where he appealed to have a bishop appointed and missionary priests sent to Axum. He was appointed to be that bishop and established the Church in Ethiopia in the fourth century.

According to the 4th-century historian Rufinus, who cites Frumentius’ brother Edesius as his authority, as children Frumentius and Edesius accompanied their uncle Meropius on a voyage from their birthplace of Tyre (in present-day Lebanon) to Ethiopia. When their ship stopped at one of the harbors of the Red Sea, local people massacred the whole crew, sparing the two boys who were taken as slaves to the King of Axum.

The two boys gained the favour of the king and shortly before his death, the king freed them. The widowed queen, however, asked them to stay and assist her with educating the young heir, Ezana, and supporting the administration of the kingdom.

They remained and using their influence, they taught people about Christianity. First they encouraged the Christian merchants present in the country to practice their faith openly, and later they converted many of the local people.

FrumentiusWhen the prince came of age, Edesius returned to Tyre, where he was ordained a priest and stayed. Frumentius, eager for the conversion of Ethiopia, accompanied his brother as far as Alexandria, where he requested Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria, to send a bishop and some priests as missionaries to Ethiopia. By Athanasius’ own account, he believed Frumentius was the most suitable person for the job and so consecrated him as bishop.

Frumentius returned to Ethiopia. He baptized King Ezana — who had by now succeeded to the throne — built many churches, and spread Christianity throughout Ethiopia. The people called Frumentius Kesate Birhan (Revealer of Light) and Abba Salama (Father of Peace). He became the first Abune—a title given to the head of the Ethiopian Church.

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