Abune Petros

Abune Petros, Bishop and Martyr

Born into a peasant family in the town of Fiche in northern Shewa, Ethiopia, and given the name Haile

Mariam in 1892, he was ordained a deacon at a young age and took monastic vows at the age of 24.

Abba Haile Mariam became the abbot of the Debre Menkirat monastery church in Wollaita, and did

missionary work there until 1924 when he became the abbot for the Monastery Church of St. Mary at

Lake Zewai. In 1928, after lengthy negotiations with the Coptic Patriarchate in Cairo, the Ethiopian

Orthodox Church was granted the right to nominate five native suffragan bishops to serve under the

Coptic born Metropolitan Archbishp Abune Kerlos sent from Egypt. Abba Haile Mariam was thus

nominated as one of the first four native bishops with the title and name of Abune Petros, and was given

the diocese of Wollo with his seat at the town of Dessie. Abune Petros served his diocese with distinction,

teaching and officiating across much of central and eastern Ethiopia. When the Italians invaded in 1935

Abune Petros accompanied the Emperor to the front and provided spiritual confort to those who were

engaged in battle. Having witnessed the barbaric massacre of Ethiopian civilians by use of mustard and

nerve gases, Abune Petros had prayers and continual fasts observed in all the churches and monasteries

of his diocese. Following the fall of Addis Ababa, Abune Petros began to preach to the resistance forces

in northern Shewa and Wollo, but was captured during an attempt by the resistance to drive the Italians

out of Addis Ababa in 1937. The Bishop was asked by the Italians to submit to their rule and recognize

King Vittorio Emanuelle as Emperor fo Ethiopia, and was even pleaded with by the Archbishop Abune

Kerlos and the Bishop of Gojjam Abune Abraham to do so. However, Abune Petros refused to recognize

any other government other than the Ethiopian government and any other King other than Haile Selassie

I. Abune Petros was taken out into a public square in Addis Ababa and executed by firing squad before

the horrified population while in his bishop's robes and holding his bishop's cross. Before he was shot,

Abune Petros pronounced an anathema against the people and the very soil of Ethiopia if they ever

accepted the rule of the Italians. Emperor Haile Selassie erected a statue in the memory of the bishop in

the square where he was shot. More recently, Abune Petros has been canonized by the Ethiopian

Orthodox Church as a Martyr and a Saint and a monastery in his name has been built in his hometown of


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