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Abune Petros

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Native name
አቡነ ጴጥሮስ
ProvinceWollo and Menz
DioceseEast Ethiopia,
ConsecrationMay 29, 1929
by Pope John XIX of Alexandria
Personal details
Haile Maryam

1882 (1882)
Died30 July 1936(1936-07-30) (aged 43–44)
Addis Ababa, Italian East Africa
DenominationEthiopian Orthodox Tewahedo
Venerated inEthiopia
Beatified1940s onward

Abune Petros (Ge'ez: አቡነ ጴጥሮስ; born Haile Maryam;[1] 1882 – 29 July 1936) was an Ethiopian bishop and martyr, who was known for his execution by firing squad in 1936 by Fascist Italian troops for his resistance to the Italian invasion of Ethiopia.[2]

Early life[edit]

Abune Petros was born in Fiche, north Addis Ababa.[1][3] He grew up in a peasant family and was educated from elementary school to the highest stage of ecclesiastical education at the monastery of Debre Libanos, where he took vows in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and became a monk in 1916.[2]


He started his teaching career at the monastery of Meskabe Kedusan in Amhara Sayint in Wollo Province, and later he moved to Debre-Menkerat monastery in Welayta, South Ethiopia, where he was authorized by the church as the teacher in charge. In 1924 he was appointed as a professor at the monastery church of Mary, on an island in Lake Zeway, southern Ethiopia. In 1927 he was assigned as memher of Menbere Leul Markos Church in the compound of the then Gennete Le’ul Imperial Palace at 6 Kilo where he became the spiritual father of Ras Tafari (later Emperor Haile Selassie).[2]

His sermons were known and appreciated by the local population. He spent a lot of time in monasteries around the city of Dessie and the region of Wereilu. He was also well known for his teaching and preaching to the people around the region to seek first the kingdom of God. One of his preaching was Colossians 3:12 "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." His sermons and preaching was very popular and insightful to the people in the area and the monastery. In 1928 at St. Marks Monastery, Alexandria, he was nominated to be one of the four bishops for Ethiopia and given the title and name Abune Petros. He then was assigned as the bishop of the central and eastern part of Ethiopia, where he continued to preach the gospel. Abune Petros was used to fasting and praying a lot.[3]

Resistance to Italian occupation[edit]

In 1935, Italian troops invaded Ethiopia. Aboune Petros went with Emperor Haile Selassie I at the northern war front where he assisted the wounded. He attended the violence used by the fascists in particular against civilians. Following the Italian victory at the Battle of Maychew, Ethiopian Patriots fold to areas in the south and Abune Petros went to the Monastery of Debre Libanos. He used to question the ongoing war "how Italy, a Christian country, would occupy in such a brutal manner another Christian peaceful country, Ethiopia?"[4]

Bishop of Dessie at the end of the Ethiopian war he decided to support the nascent Ethiopian resistance and refused to submit to the Italian authorities, he then joined the arbegnoch of Aberra Kassa, one of the sons of Ras Kassa who directed the guerrilla warfare in Shoa. At a meeting in Debre Libanos, with the presence of Aberra Kassa, Abebe Aregai and other leaders, a rash plan was decided to assault the capital with five separate columns, counting above all on exploiting a general uprising of the population. The attack failed and Abune Petros was captured by the Italians on 29 July 1936.[5]


Statue of St. Abune Petros in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

With the opportunities he had, Abune Petros preached both Ethiopians and Italian soldiers about "peace, love and freedom". Abune Petros was captured by the Italians on 29 July 1936.[6] Before his execution, the authorities gave him a final offer: if he ceases to denounce the Italian invasion and if he agrees to publicly condemn Ethiopian patriots, he would be released. He refused and said:

The tears of my countrymen caused by your gas and your machines will never allow my conscience to accept your ultimatum. How could I stand before God if I do not condemn a crime of such magnitude?

After a quick trial, Abune Petros was sentenced to death. The news spread rapidly in the country and Ethiopians gathered in Addis Ababa to greet him one last time. The fascist fearing rebellion and an attempt to release him, decided to move as forward as possible the date of his execution. On the evening of 30 July 1936, he was taken to a public square, where a large crowd gathered. During his last speech, he said:

My countrymen, do not believe the fascists telling you that the Patriots are bandits, the Patriots are people who are fighting to free us from the terror of fascism. Bandits are the soldiers who are in front of me and you, who have come from far, terrorize and violently occupy a weak and peaceful country: our Ethiopia. God gives to the people of Ethiopia the strength to resist and never bow to the Fascist army and its violence. An Ethiopian land can never accept the orders of the invading army. Land of Ethiopia; I condemn you if you accept such an invasion.

Shortly after, Abune Petros was ordered to sit on a chair and shot with bullets by many Italian soldiers. He then became a national martyr in Ethiopia. Following this, many Ethiopians joined patriots and continued war with Italian soldiers for freedom, which was made possible by 5 May 1941.

Nowadays, Abune Petros remains a famous figure in Ethiopian history. A memorial statue is erected in 1946 near St. George's Cathedral, Addis Ababa and the author Tsegaye Gebre-Medhin wrote a play on his last days. He now also is named as "Saint Abune Petros" by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and a church is built by his name.[3]


  1. ^ a b "Petros". Oxford African American Studies Center. 30 September 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2023. Ethiopian bishop and martyr, was born in Fiche, North Shewa, Ethiopia, as Haile Maryam to a farming family.
  2. ^ a b c Gates, Henry Louis; Akyeampong, Emmanuel; Niven, Steven J. (2011). Dictionary of African Biography. Vol. 5. Oxford University Press. pp. 100–101. ISBN 9780195382075.
  3. ^ a b c "Abune Petros". www.ethiopians.com. Retrieved 30 July 2021.
  4. ^ "ExecutedToday.com » 2010 » July". Retrieved 30 July 2021.
  5. ^ Del Boca, Angelo (1969). The Ethiopian war 1935–1941 (trans. ed.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-14217-3.
  6. ^ Del Boca, Angelo (1969). The Ethiopian war 1935–1941 (trans. ed.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-14217-3.