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“We have started instructing priests already in service, with three-month formation periods twice a year,” said Abune Dimetros. “With this instruction comes a modern and efficient concept of church administration.”

The Orthodox Secretariat also has more ambitious plans to build the country’s first Orthodox Theological College in Asmara. “One barrier has always been language due to a lack of proper education,” Abune Dimetros said of the clergy. “Our communication skills are not good, but they are rapidly improving.”

Helping out with the formation of Orthodox priests is CNEWA, which is providing funds to construct an Orthodox minor seminary in the mountain town of Keren.

By improving the quality of its clergy, the Orthodox Church of Eritrea is hoping not only to increase and improve the services it provides believers, but also to continue its prominent role in the future of the young country.

In providing leadership, monasteries like Debra Bizen have faithfully served the cause of independence. These ancient centers of learning and piety are now poised to join other communities in building a nation worthy of Eritrea’s unique Christian past, multiconfessional present and hope-filled future.

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Chris Hellier covers social and cultural issues across the developing world.

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Tags: Ethiopia Orthodox Church Eritrea