Monday, June 18, 2012

June 20th: Eritrea's Marytrs' Day

                                                   "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance"

Friday, June 15, 2012

A conversation with Andrew Casad

Andrew Casad

Issayas: Briefly, tell us about yourself?

Andrew: My name is Andrew Casad.  I am currently a pastoral liturgist for a Roman Catholic parish in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  Prior to my present ministry I was studying for and conducting research toward a doctorate in cultural anthropology at the University of California, San Diego.  My studies therein were interested most generally in what indigenous Christianities entailed.  Among many anthropologists there is a laudable though narrow interest constituting the anthropology of Christianity which is concerned primarily with the study of what is often the very recent arrival of Christianity among non-Western or indigenous peoples exploring the transformation of said culture in and by Christianity--usually evangelical and often pentecostal.  I, however, having a long-standing interest in non-Latin Catholic traditions and having focused largely on Eastern Christian traditions in my previous studies in liturgical theology, was interested primarily in exploring apostolic Christianities that were not part-and-parcel of the Western philosophical and cultural milieu which might offer a distinct and comprehensive 'version' of Christianity.  I studied Chaldean/Iraqi/Assyrian Christianity among diaspora communities in both San Diego and Detroit (actually Tory, MI) before turning my focus to the Ge'ez/Ethiopic Rite of Christianity and eventually looked to Eritrea as the place where I could best study both my liturgical and anthropological questions.

 Issayas: This question is more or less political. Even though Eritrea is a different country, in any article or publication relating to Christianity, writing and etc. to Eritrea, I keep reading Ge'ez/Ethiopic Rite of Christianity, etc.  Why do you think it's still put under Ethiopic Rite, (Ge'ez might be appropriate)?

Andrew:  I agree that the term Ge'ez Rite, as used, for example, by Kidane Mehret in Washington, DC, would be the most appropriate title for the liturgical rite used by the Eritrean Orthodox, Eritrean Catholic, Ethiopian Orthodox, and Ethiopian Catholic churches.  It would, of course, be analogous to Latin-, Syriac-, or Coptic- rite that we find in much of the liturgical literature where the designation is based on the language in which said liturgical rite developed and is handed down.  In English, however, Ge'ez is not a generally recognized term while, even for example in Unicode tables, Ethiopic is understood as the term incorporating what is more precisely Ge'ez and all derived languages (Tigrinya, Amharic, etc.).  There is, of course, the sense in which, on the other hand, the name of the Church (ecclesial rather than linguistic distinction) may be, for example, Roman Catholic or Byzantine Orthodox, Antiochene Orthodox, etc., thus indexing not so much the language but the principal see or empire from which the apostolic authority is derived.  In that case I think one could even refer to the Ge'ez Rite as 'Aksumite' however, that seems somewhat contrived as the tradition seems to be concerned more with seeing its the rite as associated with the court of the Ethiopian monarch than with what is no longer home to the empire.  All that said one of the issues, trivial though it may seem, is that while much of the 19th C. literature refers to the Abyssinian ______ (rite, language, etc.) nearly all the 20th C. literature refers to Ethiopian/Ethiopic ______ and therefore all the indexes we turn to are setup that way.  I certainly think it is important to find terms that transcend without ignoring important national differences (such as Habesha for the cultural group, Ge'ez for the liturgy and language) so that both Eritreans and Ethiopians, especially those who in diaspora come together, can share equally in their common patrimony.  Perhaps the 21st is the century for us to speak of Ge'ez ______.

Issayas: In your article in "PRAYTELL" (August 31, 2010), your title was entitled "The Eritrean Catholic Rite: Hybridity and Authenticity", can you briefly describe your argument and can one be hybrid and authentic at the same time?

Andrew: My argument is, in short, that the Eritrean Catholic Church postures itself as both authentically Catholic and simultaneously authentically Eritrean by means of a number of particular liturgical and ecclesial elements.  I think it is only North Americans--even anthropologists--who assume that cultural entities must be "pure bred" in order to be true.  In much of the rest of the world it is mixed/mestizo/habesha/hybrid identity that is not only expected but also recognized as the truest genius by winnowing what is best from each respective "parent" in order to move forward.
                                           A church procession   (photo courtesy of Andrew Casad)

Issayas: In the above article you wrote, "Both Italian and French missionaries did, however, attempt to bring the native Christian population within the fold of the Roman Catholic Church. Their efforts brought about neither the desired widespread unification nor the feared complete expulsion of Western missionaries (as had been the case with the Portuguese Jesuits in Christian Ethiopia two centuries earlier) but rather gave rise to the hybrid Eritrean Catholic Church". Do you think the "hybridization" was a result of a strategy or zeitgeist?

Andrew: I would say that the genius of the new approach is not so much attributable to any plan or even to a European zeitgeist but rather to the Italians' recognition that the Eritrean Christians--though seen as deficient in some ways--were fully Christian and so could be trusted as agents not only of Christianity but also of the Italian nation being declared and defined at that moment.
                                                   A Catholic priest with sistra and prayer stick 
                                                                  (photo courtesy of Andrew Casad)

Issayas: Again in the same article you mentioned that "the Eritrean Catholic Church occasionally celebrates one of several anaphora that, though conserved in the shared Ge'ez Missal, are not used in the Eritrean Orthodox Church. Would you elaborate?

Andrew: I am here relying on Christine Chaillot in her recent work The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Tradition: a brief introduction to its life and spirituality: a brief introduction to its life and spirituality (2002) as well as personal conversations with Habtemichael Kidane (who has a 2008 bibliography as well as his 1998 doctoral dissertation, both published by the Pontifical Oriental Institute) who informed me that the MesHaf Qedus (Holy Book, analogous to the Missal in the Roman/Latin tradition) borrowed in full from the Orthodox Tewahdo tradition into the hybrid Eritrean/Ethiopian/Ge'ez Catholic rite included anaphoras (Eucharistic Prayers) to/through Mary which, though found in the Orthodox 'Missal' were not used and may or have been used in the Eritrean Catholic context.

                                                        Enda Mariam church, Asmara (photo courtesy of Andrew Casad)

    Debre Bizen Monastery  (photo courtesy of Andrew Casad)

Issayas: Who was St. Justin de Diacobis and what was his historical significance?

Andrew: Much of this I drew from Jonathan Miran's "Missionaries, Education and the State in the Italian Colony of Eritrea" in the edited volume Christian Missionaries and the State in the Third World (Ohio U, 2002).  St Justin was influential in moving the process of "conversion" of the Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians to (Roman) Catholicism principally because he respected the native Ge'ez clergy and was able to form and ordain local Eritreans (and Ethiopians in and around Adwa) for ministry in the Catholic Church. See also

Issayas: Who are the Lazarists and the Cappuchini's and their significance in Eritrean history?

The Lazarists, alternatively known as the Congregation of the Mission ( hence , C.M. ) are a religious order (or, more strictly, congregation of priests) devoted to, as the name implies, missionary work in far-flung fields.  Because they are influenced by St Vincent de Paul they are also sometimes known as the Vincentian Fathers.  For a number of political reasons they were expelled from Italy and Germany (and therefore their respective colonies) in the early 1870s.  At this time Eritrea came under greater control of the Italian government rather than, as had been the case previously, other European nations or Italian civilians.  The Italian government (see Michaela Wrong's I Didn't Do It For You, 2005, for a quick overview of this history) then brought in Cappuchins, Italian Franciscan friars/priests (O.F.M., Cap.) to run the missions in Eritrea which marked a significant transition toward the Eurocentrism of subsequent evangelization and education models (see Miran, above, for the latter) under the direction of the Italian colonial state.


      Depiction of Italian Franciscan in Habesha artistic motif  at S. Antonio Church, Godaif, Asmara  
        (photo courtesy of Andrew Casad)

Issayas: In your article  you mentioned that "fearing that the 1894 Bahta Hagos rebellion against Italian rule was instigated by the French, the Italian governor expelled the French Lazarists and invited the Italian Capuchin Franciscans to assume responsibility for the evangelization of the new Italian colony and dominance over its educational apparatus. The Prefettura Apostolica dell'Eritrea was then established (bypassing any mission status) which was to be elevated to a vicariate in 1911. Why was it necssary to bypass the mission status?

Andrew: Effectively, in the political machinations going on at the time, I do not think it would be overstated that this gave the Italian state direct control of the Church in Eritrea making the evangelization efforts there subject neither to the French-dominated Lazarist Congregation of the Mission nor to the Vatican's own Propaganda Fidea (which would have governed everything as a mission territory).  Thus, in this view, Eritrea emerged ECCLESIALLY as formerly under Abyssinian/Ethiopian missionary status to its own Apostolic Prefecture precisely because everything was to be under the direction of the Italian state.  This will, I would contend, play an important role in the concomitant development of an Eritrean identity vis-à-vis Tigrayans, et al.

Issayas: Dr. Edward Sri in his book "A Biblical Walk Through the Mass: Understanding What We Say and Do In The Liturgy" talks about the following: Introductory Rites: The Preparation of the Gifts, The Liturgy of the Word, The Eucharistic Prayer (Thanksgiving, Acclamation,Epiclesis,Institution narrative and consecration,Anamnesis,Offering,Intercessions and Final Doxology) and the Concluding Rites. Are any of the above in the Ge'ez Rite? How is the hybridization and authenticity work in the aforementioned?

Andrew: Dr Sri is really trying to help Roman/Latin Catholics cope with and gain a deeper appreciation of the Biblical/scriptural allusions in our revised English translation of the Roman Missal.  I recently gave a talk on some of this same material which was recorded and may be seen online at  Indeed the basic movements of Christian liturgy--word and eucharist--and within the eucharist the thanksgiving, epiclesis, anamnesis, offering, intercessions and doxology--concluded with communion are common to all Eucharistic liturgies.  There are, however, some important differences.  On this I would suggest reading Bob Taft's Beyond East and West (1997) and the new work by Paul Brashaw and Max Johnson, The Eucharistic Liturgies: their evolution and interpretation (Liturgical Press 2012).  There Bradshaw and Johnson outline the Ethiopian Anaphora of the Apostles (one of twenty-two, see pp 157-161) as Preface, Sanctus, post-Sanctus, Institution Narrative, Anamnesis, and Epiclesis.  See also Marcos Daoud The Liturgy of the Ethiopian Church (2005).

Issayas: For the Catholic Church, the "Eucharist Prayer" is the center and high point of the Mass ("General Instruction of the Roman Missal"). Is it similar in Ge'ez rite? If not, how does the hybridization work?

Issayas: Absolutely. The anaphora, Eucharistic Prayer, Qadush, hallowing, consecration, whatever we call it in any language is the center of all Eucharistic/liturgical Christianity.  While the scholastic or analytical method peculiar to Western Christianity was not common among other Christianities they certainly all held the centrality of the eucharist and the real presence of Christ therein effected in the anaphora/Eucharistic prayer.  Eucharistic Prayer is anaphora in Greek or Qadush in Ge'ez.  While the medieval scholastic tradition of Latin/Roman/western Christianity focused in a particular "moment" within the Eucharistic Prayer (Roman Canon) the consecration or "hoc es corpus meam," explaining this with the philosophical description of transubstantiation not necessarily shared by many other authentically apostolic and Eucharistic Christians, a broad generalization that can be made about Eastern Christian liturgical reflection was that the sacredness/holiness of the whole anaphora/Qadush/etc. was more often emphasized than any focus on any particular moment within.

Issayas: what is your plan next? Are you going to publish your ten or so years of research on Eritrean Tewhado and Eritrean Catholic churches?

Andrew:  At present, I am not sure I have enough data to really publish anything comprehensive around a single research question.  I suppose I could turn the original blog post from PrayTell which was itself something of a write-up of a 2010 African Studies conference presentation I gave and render it into a publishable paper.  I must say that one of the most inspiring things I learned from Habtemichael Kidane was that, though he was by his choice no longer part of any formal academic institution that required publications in order to remain in his position and also by his choice no longer part of a religious order that might ask him to do so out of obedience, he continues to do research and publish for the original sake of academia: sharing knowledge with others for the edification of all.

Issayas: Andrew, thank you for taking out time to answer my questions.

Andrew: You're welcome.

FYI,   1)  for detailed analysis of Andrew's reserach: