A group of Catholic priests has arrived in Ethiopia to join in the East African country's celebration of the third Christian Millennium. The twelve priests from Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland are on a visit organised jointly by the Catholic aid agencies: CAFOD in England and Wales; SCIAF in Scotland; and Trocaire in Ireland, who have been working together in the country for many years. In Ethiopia, the Church uses the ancient Coptic calendar, which is about seven years behind the more widely used Gregorian calendar. For Ethiopians, September 12th this year marks the start of the third Millennium of Christianity. As part of the celebrations, some of the priests were due to take part in the famous Great Ethiopian Run and have been training hard. The race is the brainchild of Ethiopian Olympic gold medalist Haile Gebreselassie and takes place in the capital Addis Ababa, at an altitude of 2,400 metres above sea level, and in searing heat. Sadly the race has been postponed until November due to terrorist threats but the eager priests still want to take up the challenge and hope to organise an alternative fun run amongst themselves instead. They will also get to meet Haile Gebreselassie. Each of the priests will stay with local communities for a few days, celebrating mass with the local clergy, learning more about their culture and customs, the challenges people face in this impoverished country as well as the more positive and hopeful aspects of life in Ethiopia. All the priests are hoping the visit will have a great impact on themselves and their parishioners when they return home. Fr Tim Hunting from Guildford in Surrey said: "I'm excited now. Africa is a continent of huge potential. I have also become interested in the history of the church in Ethiopia. On a personal level, I hope to form friendships with the people I meet and share all these experiences and the richness of Ethiopian culture with people around the Arundel and Brighton Diocese when I return." Fr John Eagers from Paisley (Scotland) said: "For me going to Ethiopia is about celebrating the millennium together with the people, communities, and the Church of Ethiopia. It's very much about being together, enjoying the celebrations and also learning from the community work being done with SCIAF, Trocaire, and CAFOD." The group will join in the Millennium festivities and Mass in Addis Ababa on 12 September before returning home.
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