Catholic Information Service for Africa
14 September 2007Posted to the web 14 September 2007
Ethiopia entered the new millennium - which the rest of the world did on New Year 2000 - with great celebrations around the country on Wednesday.
The event, based on the Julian calendar, recognized by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, saw the government declare an amnesty for thousands of prisoners, including a few hundred opposition members, FIDES reported.
"When in a thousand years time Ethiopians will celebrate the start of the Fourth Millennium, they will say that the beginning of the Third Millennium marked the beginning of Ethiopia's renaissance " Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said.
He spoke at a ceremony in the main square in the capital, Addis Ababa, where thousands had gathered to wait for midnight to celebrate the arrival of the Year 2000 with singing and fireworks. Delegations from several other African countries were present for the celebrations.
The Ethiopian Church never adopted the reformed calendar introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 to replace the old Julian calendar in use since 46 AD. The New Year begins in September in keeping with the traditions of ancient Egypt, where the start of the New Year coincides with the annual overflowing of the River Nile.
The local Catholic Church is also celebrating the Year 2000 and all the Catholic bishops of Ethiopia will take part in a special Mass in Addis Ababa Catholic Cathedral on Sunday. A special crucifix blessed by Pope Benedict XVI will be exposed for veneration by the faithful. The pope blessed the crucifix in Loreto during a gathering of Italian Catholic youth.
"This millennium is a special opportunity to make Ethiopia known, not as a country of hunger and drought, but as a nation which is on a path to change and development" Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel of Addis Ababa and president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Ethiopia, told Vatican Radio.
"The church has an important role in this process which aims at showing a different Ethiopia; she wants the people to learn to look to the future with hope" the archbishop said.
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