Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/106

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ABYSSINIA
ABYSSINIA
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at Gédaril in the Sudan, he was imprisoned (July, 1863) with some German missionaries accused of having spoken ill of the Negus. After various promises to release the prisoners, Theodoros wound up by brutally consigning the British Consul and the members of his suite, together with some other Europeans, tied together in pairs, to the fortress of Magdala, which he had chosen as his capital. On hearing of this outrageous infringement of international law, the patience of the British gave way, and they declared war (July, 1867). Sir Robert Napier, who had already made a name by his victories in India, was placed in command of the troops assigned to this expedition. Colonel Merewether, whose activities in this campaign did much to win for him the rank of general, having previously reconnoitered the ground, suggested that the landing be made at Adulis in Annesley Bay. The British army comprised 16,000 combatants, an equal number of servants, forty-five elephants, and a great many pack mules. Napier, on landing in Abyssinia, (3 January, 1868), issued a proclamation to the Ethiopians to the effect that the sole object of the invasion was to deliver the captives, and that he had nothing but friendly feelings except for those who should seek to interfere with his progress. With this, the army boldly began its march through the steep defiles of the "great African citadel". After marching about fifty-three miles, the vanguard reached the plateau of Senafé, where they found a delightful climate, a temperature of 30° to 43° Fahr., and a most fertile country. Word reached them that several Ras and governors of the provinces, discontented with the suspicious Theodoros, stood ready to replenish their commissary and to supply them with horses. Napier made this plateau his base of operations. He was obliged to cover his line of march by three entrenched camps, the first at Senafé, the second at Addizerat, the third at Antolo. At last, on 10 April, the troops reached the slopes of Silassia without having encountered a single hostile soldier, when suddenly a cannon was fired on the heights, and 6,000 Abyssinians hurled themselves down upon the 16,000 British. The Snider rifles, however, which the British used for the first time in this engagement, quickly brought the assailants to a halt, and disabled the greater number. By 13 April, the British were beneath the walls of Magdala, which surrendered after a two hours' siege. As soon as Theodoros saw the British soldiers entering the city, feeling himself abandoned by all, and conquered, he put a pistol to his mouth, and killed himself. The victorious army then released the prisoners, whom they had hardly hoped to find alive. On 17 April, Napier, henceforth Lord Napier of Magdala, ordered the inhabitants to evacuate the city, after which the walls were demolished and the public buildings given to the flames. It was necessary to hasten the return of the troops to the sea, as the rains had already made the passage difficult. The troops embarked as they arrived at the Red Sea, on descending from the heights of Senafé.

This prompt and lucky campaign of the English was to inspire the Italians twenty-eight years later to make a like bold attempt. Their ambitious designs, however, roused the whole country against them, and the bloody battle of Adua (March, 1896), in which almost 20,000 were killed, put an end to their rash undertaking. In 1897, Mr. Rodd, first secretary of the British Ligation at Cairo, was entrusted with a mission to the Negus. A treaty was signed 14 May, and Menelik proclaimed the Mahdists enemies of his empire. He also asked for the adjustment of the frontiers between Harrar and Somaliland. Lastly, a Franco-Anglo-Italian agreement was concluded which guaranteed the independence of Ethiopia and assured to the three Powers bordering on the kingdom their respective rights and interests.

The Abyssinian Church.—The chief distinction between the Abyssinian Church and the Catholic Church is the erroneous doctrine that there is but one nature in Christ, the divine nature and the human nature being in some manner unified by a species of fusion. It was in Mary's womb according to some, or at the baptism of Christ according to others, that the Holy Ghost effected this union. Then assuming that the two natures in Christ, human and divine, form but one, Mary is the mother of the divine as well as the human nature of her Son, and becomes by that very fact, almost equal to God the Father. To these, so to speak, original errors of the Monophysites, the Ethiopian Church added some of its own: e.g., the belief that the faith of the parents suffices to save their children that die unbaptized; the wholesale repudiation of all Œcumenical Councils held since the council of Ephesus, and the belief in traducianism as an explanation of the soul's origin. Moreover, they still retain in full force various practices of the primitive Church which have long since fallen into desuetude elsewhere: e.g., abstinence from the flesh and blood of animals that have been strangled; Baptism by immersion; the custom of administering Communion to little children under the species of wine; resting from work on the Sabbath, and the celebration of the Agape.

It may be added that no church has kept to this very day a more visible imprint of the Jewish religion. Children of both sexes are circumcised by women two weeks after birth. They are then baptized, girls on the eightieth and boys on the fortieth day. As in Judaism, they distinguish by the term "Nazarenes" children dedicated by their parents to the observance of certain practices or prohibitions, such as drinking hydromel and shaving the head. The canon of Scripture admitted by the Ethiopians comprises, besides the books accepted by Catholics, certain apocryphal works, such as the "Book of Enoch", the "Ascension of Isaiah", etc. The oldest translation of the Bible into Ethiopian dates from the fourth century, having been made in Gheez. Pell, Platt, and Dillman have edited some of the manuscripts in London and Leipzig, but the majority remain untouched, in convents of Abyssinian monks. The present clergy are buried in a state of deplorable ignorance. Little is required of secular priests beyond the ability to read and to recite the Nicene creed, and a knowledge of the most necessary liturgical rites.