Many in the PTS community may not know that the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, His Holiness Abuna Paulos, is a Princeton Theological Seminary graduate. He earned his Th.M. in 1970 and his Ph.D. in 1988, studying with Professor Karlfried Froehlich as his “doctor-father.”

In June, two fellow PTS Ph.D. graduates, and now members of the Seminary faculty, traveled to Addis Ababa, where they had an audience with the patriarch and their former classmate.

Professor Paul Rorem (left) and Professor Loren Stuckenbruck (far
right) visit with their fellow PTS Ph.D. graduate, Abuna Paulos.

Paul Rorem, professor of medieval church history, went to Ethiopia to learn more about Ethiopian church history in preparation for a class he is teaching at the Seminary. He visited many medieval churches and monasteries, and saw the obelisks (stele) in Aksum where Ethiopians believe the Ark of the Covenant still blesses Ethiopia as the New Jerusalem.

Loren Stuckenbruck, professor of New Testament, was in Addis Ababa for a conference on the Ethiopic Book of Enoch, where he presented two lectures on that ancient book. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is the only church that recognizes the book as canonical in its eighty-one-book canon. While in Ethiopia,
Stuckenbruck also located three unstudied manuscripts of Enoch, which will inform a text-critical edition of the Ge-ez (classic Ethiopic) version of the book.

The colleagues also visited the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology in Addis Ababa. Only thirteen years old, it is a rapidly growing ecumenical institution that, Stuckenbruck says, “has shown remarkable strategic planning and has remained fiscally solvent, while engaging energetically and with academic integrity its mission of providing training in Christian leadership for students throughout the African continent.”

The highlight of the trip for both men, however, was their visit with the patriarch. They tried several times, unsuccessfully, to schedule an audience. Finally, on the last day, as Stuckenbruck says, “we had hung around the presidential palace into the evening, hoping to see him upon his return from a church, when the phone call came with the green light, and we were ushered into a receiving room.

“He seemed genuinely glad to see us and to hear from colleagues at Princeton, to receive our gifts and greetings. In return, he sent back two important books on the Ethiopian church for our Seminary library, and gifts for individuals. Before we left, he made sure we saw a large photograph framed in the foyer. There he was, holding a commencement program from his Seminary graduation ceremony in the Princeton University Chapel. PTS was there in the presidential palace, and the three of us, each a PTS Ph.D. graduate, had a little reunion of our own.”