Abba Teklemaryam Semharay(1871-1942): An Eritrean Catholic Priest who rejected Latinization

Abba Teklemaryam Semharay (1871 – 1942) an Eritrean Catholic priest who fought against Latinization of Eritrean Catholic Church. Abba Teklemaryam Semharay was among the first Catholic priest to be ordained in the year of 1893 in the then established Catholic Cathedral St. Michael in Keren, Eritrea by the French missionaries.

Abba Teklemaryam Semharay was born in Keren. His original village was in Shieb-Seleba, a small Village near the famous and historical monastery Debre-Sina in Senhit Region. Abba Teklemaryam Semharay objected the latinisation of the Eritrean Catholic Church. But, the biggest challenge was the materials needed for the Liturgical services.

He took the responsibility to prepare Ge’ez version of the Catholic Liturgy. He cooperated with the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia to develop it from scratch. The colonizers were not happy with his motion. They sent him to Jerusalem to serve there as a representative of Eritrean/Abyssinian Catholic Church and assist in pilgrimage.

It is from Jerusalem that Abba Teklemaryam Semharay worked so hard to develop the Ge’ez rite. He worked with Ethiopian monks day and night to develop the Ge’ez rite.

Abba Teklemaryam formed a committee with other Catholic priests. Although the Italians were not happy with his works, they did not want to mess too. Therefore, they gave him limited support to work.

From Jerusalem, he went to Rome, then to Paris and back to Rome. In Rome, he was a professor of Ge’ez language. During all these days, he never stopped working for the development of Ge’ez literature and liturgy. He published dozens of articles related to Ge’ez language and materials.

After years of hard work to develop Ge’ez and his service to people, he passed away in 1942. His remains are now in the Vatican. Abba Teklemaryam Semharay Selim is remembered for his great intellect and courage to preserve Eritrean identity. He stood firm against latinisation of Eritrea while he stood high for the mission he was ordained for.

To know more about his works please read this 

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