"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, May 23, 2022

Italian Barbarism in Abyssinia

Ethiopian Orthodox Christians are noteworthy and unique for many things, not least their vibrant iconography on which I commented here. Theirs remains the largest Christian church in all of Africa. 

There are other reasons--sorrowful and disgusting--that they stand out, not least for being subject to a quasi-genocide by other Christians less than a century ago. A recent edition of the London Review of Books contains a review that discusses some of the horrifying and infuriating details of atrocities committed against Ethiopian Orthodox Christians by Italian Roman Catholics. Much of the former's sacred vessels and art were stolen by the latter, their monastic sites destroyed, and many thousands of Ethiopian Christians were outright murdered by the latter during Mussolini's colonial adventures in Africa nearly a century ago now. 

The details recounted in this new book would lend themselves to being compiled in a much larger volume of shame someone should write, Roman Sins Against Eastern Christians. Earlier shameful stories about Jesuit intrigues against Ethiopian Orthodox Christians would fill part of this proposed volume, but they would pale in comparison to the stories told in Holy War: The Untold Story of Catholic Italy's Crusade Against the Ethiopian Orthodox Church by Ian Campbell (Hurst, 2021), 336pp.

About this new book the publisher tells us this:

In 1935, Fascist Italy invaded the sovereign state of Ethiopia--a war of conquest that triggered a chain of events culminating in the Second World War. In this stunning and highly original tale of two Churches, historian Ian Campbell brings a whole new perspective to the story, revealing that bishops of the Italian Catholic Church facilitated the invasion by sanctifying it as a crusade against the world's second-oldest national Church. Cardinals and archbishops rallied the support of Catholic Italy for Il Duce's invading armies by denouncing Ethiopian Christians as heretics and schismatics and announcing that the onslaught was an assignment from God.

Campbell marshals evidence from three decades of research to expose the martyrdom of thousands of clergy of the venerable Ethiopian Church, the burning and looting of hundreds of Ethiopia's ancient monasteries and churches, and the instigation and arming of a jihad against Ethiopian Christendom, the likes of which had not been seen since the Middle Ages.

Finally, Holy War traces how, after Italy's surrender to the Allies, the horrors of this pogrom were swept under the carpet of history, and the leading culprits put on the road to sainthood.

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