Information on baptism (infant or adult) and confirmation practices in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church [ETH17729.E]

According to A History of Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has inherited most of the beliefs of the old churches of the Syrians and Copts (1928, 156-57). The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has six sacraments and there are two kinds of baptism, including triple immersion and the commemoration of the baptism of Christ in the Jordan (ibid.). For further details on the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, please refer to the attachment from A History of Ethiopia.

A reverend of the St. Mary's Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Toronto provided the following information (22 June 1994). The Sacrament of Baptism is one of seven sacraments of the church. The others are Confirmation, Penance, Communion, Ordination, Matrimony and Anointment of the Sick. The sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Communion are performed together. There is no time limit on when a person must be baptized, but the church encourages baptism at infancy. A member of the church is baptized only once. Catholics and Anglicans who convert to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church are not rebaptized, as these denominations share the same Christian traditions as the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. However, members of other faiths or churches who want to convert to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church must be re-baptized.

Circumstances permitting, the priest performs baptisms in the morning. The person is taken to a river or a pool and immersed "three times in the water in the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit." Where a river or pool is not available, the priest must pour water three times on the head and must ensure that the water flows from head to toe. This signifies the total wetness that results from immersion in a river or pool. The church encourages parents to baptize male infants on the 40th day of their birth, and females on their 80th day (as is the Old Testament tradition). Before they can be baptized, adults are required to know the teachings of the church, the Ten Commandments, the Seven Sacraments and the Five Pillars of Mysteries of the Church. The reverend did not elaborate. After the baptism, adults must proclaim to the assembled congregation, their acceptance and belief in the teachings of the church.

With regard to Confirmation, a priest anoints all joints of the body with Meron, a special olive oil prepared in Jerusalem by church bishops specifically for the purpose. Confirmation is performed by the priest once he has completed the baptism rites.

This response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the DIRB within time constraints. This response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Budge, E.A. Wallis. 1928. Vol. 1. A History of Ethiopia: Nubia and Abyssinia. London: Methuen & Co.

St. Mary's Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Toronto. 22 June 1994. Telephone interview with reverend.


Budge, E.A. Wallis. 1928. Vol. 1. A History of Ethiopia: Nubia and Abyssinia. London: Methuen & Co., pp. 142-164.

Contemporary Religions: A World Guide. 1992. Edited by Ian Harris et al. London: Longman Group UK Ltd., p. 147.

The Encyclopedia of Religion. 1987. Vol. 5. Edited by Mircea Eliade. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, pp. 173-77.

Ethiopia: A Country Study. 1981. 3rd ed. Edited by Harold D. Nelson and Irwin Kaplan. Washington, DC: Department of the Army, pp. 108-17.