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from issue no. 01/02 - 2005

The presence of the Church in Sudan goes back to the 4th century

Christian Nubia

by Lorenzo Cappelletti

A Coptic icon  of the VI century

A Coptic icon of the VI century

There has been much talk recently of new evangelization and of Christian roots of Europe, and there is talk of European territory, together with the regions in the Mediterranean basin, as the area of a more ancient evangelization. One forgets that from the very early centuries Christianity, while it was relatively, or not at all, widespread in the heart of Europe, had reached not only Armenia and Meso­potamia, but also remote regions to the east of the Caspian sea, often thanks to Nestorian and Jacobite communities. And furthermore it had gone up the Nile, at least as far as Philae, an island on the middle stretch of the river, in northern Nubian territory, where an episcopal see is already recorded in the 4th century. From the 4th century onwards, other churches and episcopal sees, in this case often monophysite in tendency, were then set up also in central and southern areas of Nubia (the present Sudan), that therefore boasts not only Christian roots, but the blood of the martyrs who watered it, as can be read in Father Renato Kizito Sesana’s book.
The notions are accessible and can be traced on the maps of a widely known handbook such as The History of the Church by Joseph Lortz or various maps, with correspondent comment, in Universal Atlas of the History of the Church edited by Hubert Jedin and others. Naturally it is sometimes difficult to locate such churches. But it is what has always happened, also in the West and in Europe. I remember a book by Father Jiry Vesely, of some years ago, on the evangelization of Cyril and Methodius among Moravians, Bulgarians and Czechs, entitled Writing on water. Even today one may happen to see “writing on water” done by an unknown African catechist, so that someone can be born again of water and the Spirit, which is the thing that counts.

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