The title of the thesis was “Theology of Zär’a Ya‘ǝqob Emperor of Ethiopia: His Contribution for Ethiopian Mariology.”
Abba Hailemariam says: “In Ethiopia the Blessed Virgin Mary occupies a significant place and it is evident in literature, liturgy, popular devotion, iconography, and daily life of the simple people. My attempt in this doctoral work was to look at the foundation of this important place occupied by Mary in the life of Ethiopian Christians. One of the historical figures who has contributed much to this is Emperor Zär’a Ya‘ǝqob of Ethiopia (1434-1368), who lived in the era of Reformation of Ethiopian Christianity with the help of translations of Arabic Christian literature that came via the Coptic Church and production of original local writings from different monasteries. In this work of translations and composition of original Christian writings Zär’a Ya‘ǝqob has played a great role, as he himself composed many writings”.
The thesis proper comprises of six chapters. The study starts with the general historical context on which the author lived and worked (Chapter One) and then goes on to look at the life of the author, his formation, his political carrier, his literary work and then his theological themes (Chapter Two). Chapter Three deals with the analysis of the writings of Zär’a Ya‘ǝqob and draws main Marian aspects from it, and Chapter Four passes to the theological interpretation of Mariology of Zär’a Ya‘ǝqob as Trinitarian, Christological, Ecclesiological and Anthropological Mariology. Chapter Five andChapter Six deal with the “History of effect”. The first focus is on the influence of Zär’a Ya‘ǝqob in Ethiopia both on civil as well as ecclesial life: theology, liturgy and pastoral, giving more importance for his effect on present day Ethiopian Mariology. Second focus (Chapter Six) is on Zär’a Ya‘ǝqob’s contribution for today’s ecumenism. First it takes the general ecumenical situation on which EOTC is involved. After briefly presenting some controversies on the issue of Mariology in Ethiopia from the ecumenical point of view, this chapter highlights some contributions of Zär’a Ya‘ǝqob for ecumenism in Mariology: priority of God’s grace, Mary the Mother of Jesus Christ – the Mother of God, Mary a close follower of Jesus Christ, Mary model for Christian perfection and finally Mary as intercessor. The Conclusion, in addition to the summary of the main aspects, gives some space to some friendly criticism on the areas that need more development and clarifications.
Abba Hailemariam was directed in this uphill task by the erudite and vastly experienced Prof. Antonio Escudero. The examining panel included Prof. Pier Giorgio Gianazza and Prof. Aimable Musoni. The `heat` of the doctoral defense was eased with the scholarly exposition and the pleasant soothing `italiano` of Abba Haile. A round of cheers, spontaneous embraces, joyous applause and smiling faces highlighted the feeling of accomplished relief when Abba Hailemariam was found worthy of obtaining the coveted `Doctorate.` The Roman sun blazed away, but Hailemariam outshone the blazing star with his radiating brilliance. Having laboured through the difficult theme with a sense of purpose, Abba Haile now gears up for his new responsibility as the rector of Don Bosco Mekanissa.