Eritrean Catholic Church

The Eritrean Catholic Church is a Metropolitan sui iuris Eastern particular church headquartered in Asmara, Eritrea. Established in 2015 by separation from the Ethiopian Catholic Church, it is in full communion with the Holy See. It follows the Alexandrian liturgical rite.

Like the other Eastern Catholic Churches, the Eritrean Catholic Church is in full communion with the Holy See. It holds to the Christological definition taught at the Council of Chalcedon and accepts the universal jurisdiction of the Pope. These points distinguish it from the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, which is an Oriental Orthodox church comprising most Christians in the country. Like the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Eritrean Catholic Church follows the Ethiopic liturgical rite in the Ge'ez language, a Semitic language which fell out of common use several centuries ago. This rite is based on the Coptic Church liturgy.

Eritrean Catholic Church
Kidanemhret Catholic Church, Asmara, Eritrea
ClassificationEastern Catholic
LeaderMetropolitan Menghesteab Tesfamariam,
Archbishop of Asmara
LiturgyAlexandrian Rite
Origin19 January 2015
Branched fromEthiopian Catholic Church (2015)
Members162,528 (2016) [1]


Pre-20th century

In 1839 Giustino de Jacobis, an Italian Vincentian priest, arrived as a missionary in the area that is now Eritrea and northern Ethiopia. He preferred to employ the local liturgical rite in the Ge'ez language rather than the Roman rite in Latin. He attracted a considerable number of local priests and laity to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. He died in 1860 at Halai, near Hebo, in what is now the Southern Administrative Region of Eritrea.[2]

In 1869, Italy began to occupy Eritrea and in 1890 declared it a colony of the Kingdom of Italy, fostering immigration of Italians. In view of the changed situation, the Holy See set up on 19 September 1894 the Apostolic Prefecture of Eritrea, entrusted to Italian Capuchins, thus removing Eritrea from the territory of the Apostolic Vicariate of Abyssinia of the Vincentians, who were predominantly French.[3][4] In the following year, the governor of the colony expelled the remaining Vincentian priests on the unfounded suspicion of having encouraged armed resistance.[5][6][7]

Most of the local population who became Catholics had been members of the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, from which the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church separated only in the mid-20th century. They kept the rites of that Church in the ancient liturgical language of Ge'ez, giving rise to an Ethiopic-Rite Catholic community.[8]

First half of 20th century

Asmara Church.jpeg
What was once the principal church of the Apostolic Vicariate of Eritrea

The prefecture apostolic of Eritrea was raised by the Holy See to the status of Apostolic Vicariate (headed by a titular bishop) in 1911.[9][4] In addition, an Ethiopic Rite Ordinariate of Eritrea was established on 4 July 1930, removing those Catholics from the jurisdiction of the then much larger Latin Church Vicariate.[10][11] Father Kidanè-Maryam Cassà, who since 1926 had been their pro-vicar within the Vicariate, was appointed their ordinary and on 3 August 1930 was ordained titular bishop of Thibaris in the chapel of the Pontifical Ethiopian College in Vatican City. At that time they numbered less than 3% of the population of Eritrea.[12][13]

The greater importance at that time of the Latin Vicariate is reflected in the impressive church dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary that was completed in 1923 as the seat of the Apostolic Vicariate. Even after the demise of the Vicariate in 1995, it is still called "the cathedral".[14][15]

Association with Ethiopia

At the beginning of the 1940s nearly 28% of the population of Italian Eritrea, which had been part of Italian East Africa since 1936, was Catholic; mostly Italians and of the Latin Church.[16] There was a pronounced fall in the number of Italians present after the end of the Second World War, when Eritrea was at first under British military administration. The British census of 1949 showed that Asmara, the capital, had only 17,183 Italians out of a total population of 127,579. The departure of Italians accelerated further when Eritrea came under Ethiopian authority at the end of 1950. The relationship between the Latin Vicariate and the Ethiopic Ordinariate was thus inverted. On 31 October 1951, the Ordinariate of Eritrea was raised to the level of an Exarchate (the Eastern equivalent of a Vicariate) under the name of the Apostolic Exarchate of Asmara,[11] at the same time as the Apostolic Exarchate of Addis Ababa was created. On 25 July 1959, the name of the Latin Vicariate of Eritrea, which in spite of the greatly reduced number of its faithful kept its rank, was changed to Apostolic Vicariate of Asmara.[4] However, after the fourth and last bishop who was Vicar Apostolic of Asmara retired on 2 June 1974, the Vicariate was administered by the Capuchin priest Luca Milesi, who became a bishop only when the Vicariate was suppressed in 1995 and he was appointed the first Eparch of Barentu.[17]

Central Eritrea banner - 2008-11-01
Catholic church in Halib Mentel in the eparchy of Keren

On 28 February 1961, the Ethiopian Catholic Church was established as a Metropolitan sui iuris Church, consisting of the Archeparchy of Addis Ababa and two suffragan sees, one of which was that of Asmara, while the other was the newly created Ethiopian Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat (previously the Prefecture Apostolic of Tigray).[11]

Coincidentally, the Eritrean War of Independence began later that year, and ended in 1991 with a decisive Eritrean victory.

In independent Eritrea

Catholic church in Akrur.jpeg
Church (formerly Latin-rite) in Akrur in the eparchy of Segheneyti

On 21 December 1995, under Pope John Paul II, parts of the Eparchy of Asmara became two new eparchies, based respectively in Keren and Barentu. The much reduced Apostolic Vicariate of Asmara was abolished.[10] The only Catholic Church jurisdictions in Eritrea were thus all of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, making Eritrea the only country where all Catholics, including members of the Latin Church, are entrusted to the care of Eastern Catholic bishops.

On 24 February 2012, Pope Benedict XVI created a fourth eparchy based in Segheneyti with territory taken from the then Eparchy of Asmara.[18]

On 19 January 2015, under Pope Francis, the Eritrean Catholic Church was erected as an autonomous sui iuris metropolitan church with Asmara as its metropolitan see and the other three Eritrean eparchies as suffragans, separating it from the Ethiopian Catholic Church, whose metropolitan see was thus left with only three suffragans.[19]


Eritrea - Eparchia di Asmara
Eritrean Catholic eparchies from 1995 to 2012. In red that of Asmara, from which that of Segheneyti was taken in 2012. In north, that of Keren; in west, that of Barentu.
Southern in Eritrea
Southern Administrative Region, in which is situated the cathedral town of the Eparchy of Segheneyti

There are four eparchies (bishoprics) in the country:[20]

Statistics 2016[25]

Eparchy Asmara Barentu Keren Segheneyti Total
Catholics 31,850 45,580 49,538 35,560 162,528
Resident bishops 2 1 1 1 5
Parishes 59 13 44 34 107
Eparchial priests 20 7 51 25 103
Religious priests 316 20 22 37 395
Men religious 602 22 63 90 777
Women religious 498 35 81 105 719
Permanent deacons 2 0 0 0 2
Seminarians 208 9 24 13 254

Relations with Government of Eritrea

Since 2004, the State Department of the United States of America has repeatedly listed the State of Eritrea as a country of particular concern with regard to religious freedom. However, it indicates that the Catholic Church is granted some favours, limited in number and extent, not granted to other religious communities: "permission to host some visiting clergy; to receive funding from the Holy See; to travel for religious purposes and training in small numbers; and to receive exemptions from national service for seminary students and nuns".[26] National service is demanded of most Eritreans, men and women, between the ages of 18 and 40 or in practice 50 or more and is often of indefinite length.[27][28][29]

The Catholic bishops issued on 25 May 2014, the 23rd anniversary of the independence of the state, a pastoral letter that some saw as critical of the Government. An English translation of the document, the original of which is in the Tigrinya language, extends to 17 pages.[30] The bishops spoke of the emigration of the many young Eritreans who risk their lives in the hope of emigrating to other countries.[31] They repeated what they had written in 2001: "[N]o-one leaves a land of milk and honey to seek another country offering the same opportunities. If one's homeland is a place of peace, jobs and freedom of expression there is no reason to leave it to suffer hardship, loneliness and exile in an effort to look for opportunity elsewhere."[32] They spoke also of "the delusion engendered as result of the non-achievement of the ends proposed, the uselessness of one’s own aspirations, looking to distant lands as the only alternative for self-fulfilment, are bringing a growing number of people to frustration and desperation. They find themselves looking at a horizon that grows always darker and heavier. Alongside this, the breakup of the family unit inside the country – through military service unlimited in terms of time and monetary reward and through the imprisonment of many young people in actual prison or in punishment camps – is exposing to misery not only elderly parents with no visible means of support, but also entire families and it is having serious consequences at the economic level as well as at the psychological and mental levels."[33]

The Eritrean agency TesfaNews questioned the bishops' sincerity and interpreted information provided by WikiLeaks[34] as indicating that the Archeparch of Asmara "is a certified, anti-government and National service religious leader residing at the helm the capital Asmara".[35]

See also


  1. ^ "Erezione della Chiesa Metropolitana sui iuris eritrea e nomina del primo Metropolita" (PDF). Catholic Near East Welfare Association. November 29, 2016. Retrieved November 29, 2016.
  2. ^ Brief History of the Catholic Eparchy of Keren, Eritrea
  3. ^ Decree Ut saluti animarum, in Le canoniste contemporain, year 18, Paris 1895, pp. 56-57
  4. ^ a b c Annuario Pontificio 1964, p. 741
  5. ^ Dan Connell, Tom Killion, Historical Dictionary of Eritrea, (Scarecrow Press 2010 ISBN 978-0-81087505-0), pp. 140–142.
  6. ^ A. Billot, La France et l'Italie: Histoire des années troubles 1881–1899 (Paris 1905), pp. 231–236
  7. ^ Annales de la Congrégation de la Mission (Lazaristes) et de la Compagnie des Filles de la Charité, 1895, pp. 247–255
  8. ^ "Chronology of Catholic Dioceses:Eritrea — Den katolske kirke". Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  9. ^ "GCatholicasmaralatin">Apostolic Vicariate of Asmara,
  10. ^ a b Changes in Ecclesiastical Circumscriptions in Eritrea,
  11. ^ a b c Annuario Pontificio 1964, p.40
  12. ^ Antonio Cataldi, I missionari cattolici italiani nell'Etiopia occupata (2013), p. 125
  13. ^ Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique, Volume 100, Issues 3-4. Université Catholique de Louvain. 2005. p. 1010. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  14. ^ "Un antico tempio cattolico della capitale: La Cattedrale di Asmara, Chiesa della Beata Vergine del Rosario", pp. 28-29 of a 2011 issue of Missionari Cappuccini commemorating the centenary of the foundation of the Apostolic Vicariate of Eritrea
  15. ^ Administrator, shabait. "The Asmara Cathedral: An Architectural Wonder -". Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  16. ^ Bandini, Franco. Gli italiani in Africa, storia delle guerre coloniali 1882-1943 Chapter: Eritrea
  17. ^ Cheney, David M. "Bishop Luca Milesi [Catholic-Hierarchy]". Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  18. ^ Catholic Hierarchy
  19. ^ Apostolic Constitution (papal bull) Multum fructum of 19 January 2015
  20. ^ Ethiopian/Eritrean Catholic Church Archived 2010-02-25 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ "Metropolitanate of Asmara, Eritrea (Eritrean Rite)". Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  22. ^ "Eparchy of Barentu, Eritrea (Eritrean Rite)". Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  23. ^ "Eparchy of Keren, Eritrea (Eritrean Rite)". Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  24. ^ "Eparchy of Segheneyti, Eritrea (Eritrean Rite)". Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  25. ^ CNEWA: The Eastern Catholic Churches 2016
  26. ^ United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. 2016 Annual Report, p. 42
  27. ^ "Eritrea won't shorten national service despite migration fears". 25 February 2017. Retrieved 10 January 2017 – via Reuters.
  28. ^ "Miserable and useless". 10 March 2014. Retrieved 10 January 2017 – via The Economist.
  29. ^ Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. "Refworld - Eritrea: Military service, including age of recruitment, length of service, grounds for exemption, penalties for desertion from and evasion of military service, and availability of alternative service". Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  30. ^ Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops of Eritrea "Where Is Your Brother"
  31. ^ "Eritrean Bishops issue pastoral letter decrying emigration". Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  32. ^ English translation, 19
  33. ^ English translation, 20
  34. ^ "Gse Tightens Control on Official Religious Institutions". 21 December 2016. Retrieved 10 January 2017 – via WikiLeaks PlusD.
  35. ^ "Four Eritrean Catholic Bishops Issue Pastoral Letter Decrying Emigration". 10 June 2014. Retrieved 10 January 2017.

External links

Apostolic Vicariate of Eritrea

The Apostolic Vicariate of Asmara was a Roman Catholic missionary jurisdiction in Eritrea. Centered in Asmara it was at first the Apostolic Prefecture of Eritrea and then the Apostolic Vicariate of Eritrea.

Coptic Catholic Church

The Coptic Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic particular church in full communion with the Catholic Church. The Coptic Catholic Church uses the Alexandrian Rite. Uniquely among Eastern Catholic Churches, it uses the Coptic language (derived from Ancient Egyptian, hence the name) in its liturgy, whereas the Ethiopian Catholic Church and Eritrean Catholic Church use the Alexandrian Rite in the Ge'ez language.

The current Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria is Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, who replaced Antonios Naguib in 2013. The offices of the Patriarchate are located in Cairo. The patriarchal Cathedral of Our Lady of Egypt is in Nasr City, a suburb of Cairo.

Eritrean Catholic Archeparchy of Asmara

The Eritrean Catholic Archeparchy of Asmara, officially the Archeparchy of Asmara (Latin: Archieparchia Asmarensis or Latin: Metropolitana Ecclesia Asmarensis), more informally Asmara of the Eritreans, is the metropolitan see of the Metropolitan Eritrean Catholic Church, a sui iuris Eastern Catholic Church whose territory corresponds to that of the State of Eritrea in the Horn of Africa. It depends on the Roman Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

As head of an autonomous particular church, the Metropolitan Archeparch, currently Menghesteab Tesfamariam, is mentioned by name, after the Pope, in the liturgies celebrated within the suffragan eparchies of Barentu, Keren and Segheneyti.The Eritrean Catholic Church, like the Ethiopian Catholic Church, from which it was separated in 2015, uses in its liturgy the Ethiopic variant of the Alexandrian Rite in the Ge'ez language. It is the Eastern Catholic counterpart of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, which was granted autocephaly in 1993, and is headed by an Orthodox Patriarch, who also is based in the Eritrean capital. Since the Eritrean Catholic Church is a metropolitanate, not a patriarchal or major archiepiscopal Church, the power of its metropolitan and council of hierarchs is limited to its own territory, which covers all and only Eritrea, (East Africa or, more precisely, the Horn of Africa). Faithful outside of Eritrea are immediately subject to the Pope.The cathedral of the sui iuris metropolitan see is Kidane Mehret Cathedral in Asmara, the capital city of Eritrea. Other Catholic churches in Asmara include Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, which was the former ecclesiastical seat of the Apostolic Vicariate of Eritrea.

Eritrean Catholic Eparchy of Barentu

The Eritrean Catholic Eparchy of Barentu (Latin: Eparchia Barentuanus) is a Catholic eparchy located in the town of Barentu in Eritrea. It is a part of the ecclesiastical province of Asmara.

Eritrean Catholic Eparchy of Keren

The Eritrean Catholic Eparchy of Keren (Latin: Eparchia Kerensis) is a Roman Catholic eparchy centred in the city of Keren in Eritrea. It is a suffragan of the Archeparchy of Asmara, and a constituent eparchy of the Eritrean Catholic Church.

Eritrean Catholic Eparchy of Segheneyti

The Eritrean Catholic Eparchy of Segheneyti (Latin: Eparchia Segheneitensis) is a Catholic eparchy located in the town of Segheneyti in Eritrea. It is a part of the ecclesiastical province of Asmara. The eparchy follows the Alexandrian Rite, and has a cathedral of Saint Michael the Archangel.

Ethiopian Catholic Archeparchy of Addis Abeba

The Ethiopian Catholic Archeparchy of Addis Ababa, officially the Metropolitan sui iuris Archeparchy of Addis Ababa (Latin: Metropolitana sui iuris archieparchia Neanthopolitana) is the metropolitan see of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, a sui iuris metropolitan Eastern Catholic Church.

The cathedral of the see is the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the national capital Addis Ababa.It has three suffragan eparchies. Also in Ethiopia are nine Latin jurisdictions (Apostolic Vicariates and Apostolic Prefectures), which, not being of diocesan rank, are not organized as parts of an ecclesiastical province and are instead immediately subject to the Holy See. The Ethiopian Catholic Church reports to the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, while the Latin jurisdictions depend on the missionary Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The Catholics in the Latin jurisdictions are about six times as numerous as those in the Ethiopic jurisdictions.Unlike some other countries, where jurisdictions of the Latin Church and of one or more Eastern Catholic Churches overlap, all ecclesiastical jurisdictions in Ethiopia are geographically distinct and each territory has a single hierarch or ordinary. All the hierarchs and ordinaries are members of the interritual Episcopal Conference, which until the foundation of the Eritrean Catholic Church in 2015 also counted the Eritrean hierarchy as members and, from the 1993 declaration of the independence of Eritrea until 2015, was called the Episcopal Conference of Ethiopia and Eritrea. The episcopal conference is now again named without mention of Eritrea.The Metropolitan Archeparch of Addis Ababa is Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, who is also president of the episcopal conference.

Ethiopian Catholic Church

The Ethiopian Catholic Church is a Metropolitan sui iuris Eastern particular church within the Catholic Church, established in 1930 in Ethiopia.

Like the other Eastern Catholic Churches, the Ethiopian Catholic Church is in full communion with the Holy See. It holds the Christological doctrine of the Council of Chalcedon and accepts the universal jurisdiction of the Pope. These points distinguish it from the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, an Oriental Orthodox Church which comprises most Christians in the country. Like the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Ethiopian Catholic Church follows the Alexandrian liturgical rite.

Ge'ez, a Semitic language fallen out of daily use several centuries ago, is the liturgical language of the Ethiopian Catholic Church. The Church's liturgy is based on that of the Coptic Church.

Ethiopian Semitic languages

Ethiopian Semitic (also known as Ethiosemitic, Ethiopic and Abyssinian) is a group of languages spoken in Ethiopia and Eritrea, with a small population of Tigre speakers in Sudan. Together with the Razihi language of Old South Arabian, they form the Western South Semitic languages, which, together with Modern South Arabian, the Eastern branch, they form the South Semitic sub-branch of the Afroasiatic family's Semitic branch.

Amharic, the official working language in Ethiopia, has ~62 million speakers (including second language speakers) and is the most widely spoken in the group. Tigrinya has 7 million speakers and is the most widely spoken language in Eritrea.While focused on Semitic languages as the only branch of the broader Afroasiatic family that is distributed outside Africa, a recent study by Kitchen et al. proposed through the use of Bayesian computational phylogenetic techniques that "contemporary Ethiosemitic languages of Africa reflect a single introduction of early Ethiosemitic from southern Arabia approximately 2800 years ago", and that this single introduction of Ethiosemitic underwent "rapid diversification" within Ethiopia and Eritrea.The modern Ethiopian Semitic languages all share subject–object–verb (SOV) word order as part of the Ethiopian language area, but Ge'ez had verb-subject-object (VSO) order as is common with Semitic languages.

The division into Northern and Southern branches was established by Cohen (1931) and Hetzron (1972) and garnered broad acceptance, but this classification has recently been challenged by Dr. Rainer Voigt. Voigt rejects the classification that was put forward by Cohen and Hetzron, concluding that they are too closely related to be grouped separately into a north and south.

Ethiopic Church

Ethiopic Church refers to a Christian church whose traditional liturgy is in the Ge'ez language, also known as Ethiopic.

There are four such churches:

Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church

Ethiopian Catholic Church

Eritrean Catholic Church

Giustino de Jacobis

Saint Giustino de Jacobis (9 October 1800 – 31 July 1860) was an Italian Roman Catholic bishop and professed member of the Congregation of the Mission who became a Vicar Apostolic in Ethiopia and the Titular Bishop of Nilopolis. He is also known as Justin de Jacobis.

List of Catholic dioceses in Ethiopia and Eritrea

The Catholic Church in Ethiopia and Eritrea is currently joined in a single transnational episcopal conference which, also atypically, includes the Eastern Catholic (Coptic) churches, totaling of two Metropolitan archeparchies, six diocesan suffragans (eparchies) and nine pre-diocesan Latin missionary jurisdictions (apostolic vicariates, except one apostolic prefecture). Each country also has such an inter-catholic national assembly.

The Latin hierarchy is composed solely of the pre-diocesan missionary jurisdictions in Ethiopia.

The Eastern Catholics have a Coptic (Alexandrian Rite) particular church sui iuris in each country (both using the Archaic Geez language), each headed by a Metropolitan whose ecclesiastical province, covering that nation, is the whole church, with three suffragans each.Furthermore there is an Apostolic Nunciature to Ethiopia (papal embassy-level diplomatic representation) in the national capital Addis Abbeba; in it are also vested the Apostolic Nunciatures to Djibouti and to Somalia.

The Apostolic Nunciature to Eritrea is vested in the Apostolic Nunciature to Sudan (in its capital Khartum)

Maronite Catholic Eparchy of the Annunciation

The Maronite Catholic Eparchy of the Annunciation is an Eparchy of the Maronite Church immediately subject to the Holy See located in Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and Senegal. Its current ordinary is Eparch Simon Faddoul.

Menghesteab Tesfamariam

Menghesteab Tesfamariam (born 24 December 1948 in Berakit) is, as metropolitan archbishop of the Archeparchy of Asmara, the head of the Eritrean Catholic Church. Ordained as a priest of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus on 18 February 1979, he was appointed as Bishop of Asmara on 25 June 2001, and ordained on 16 September. On June 30, 2011, in a speech in Nairobi, he proposed the establishment of a new scholarship fund in each diocese in the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) region to provide assistance to under-privileged students. In January 2015 Pope Francis established the Eritrean Catholic Church as an autonomous sui iuris Eastern Catholic Church, thus separating it from the Ethiopian Catholic Church. At the same time he elevated the Eparchy of Asmara to the dignity of an Archeparchy and named Menghesteab Tesfamariam as the head of the new church.

Religion in Eritrea

Religion in Eritrea mainly consists of Abrahamic faiths. Since May 2002, the Eritrean government has officially recognized the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Eritrean Catholic Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea, and Sunni Islam. All other faiths and denominations are in principle required to undergo a registration process; in practice they are not allowed to register. Among other things, the government's registration system requires religious groups to submit personal information on their membership to be allowed to worship.There are two major religions in Eritrea, Christianity and Islam. However, the number of adherents is subject to debate. In 2010, the United States Department of State (USDoS) estimated that 50% of the population was Christian and around 48% was Muslim. According to the ACS-Italia, around 49.6% of Eritrea's population in 2017 adhered to Islam, and 48.4% followed Christianity. The remaining 2% of residents practiced other religions, including traditional faiths and animism..The great majority of Tigrayans are Orthodox christians and other ethnic groups are mostly muslims.

All communities in Eritrea are deeply religious and have coexisted peacefully and in harmony alongside each other for centuries. This is why there is a noticeable lack of religious extremism. The country straddles a region grappling with considerable fundamentalist and extremist tendencies. Furthermore, the State of Eritrea is a secular state. As such, there is no state religion; the State does not proscribe or support one faith over others; and all religions are equally treated and operate independently from the State. The GOE has from the outset officially sanctioned and provided protocol status recognition to the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church, the Eritrean Catholic Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church and Islam. Since 2002, all other faiths and denominations are required by law to undergo registration process. The Pentecostal groups did not comply with the registrations requirements, while other Protestant denominations such as Presbyterians still officially maintain their offices with pending approval. Generally, the government discourages proliferation of new religious groups.

The Kingdom of Aksum, covering much of modern-day Eritrea and the Tigray Region in northern Ethiopia, arose somewhere around the first or second centuries. The Aksumites erected a number of large stelae, which served a religious purpose in pre-Christian times. Over 200 years after the kingdom's formation, it adopted Christianity under King Ezana. Eritrea was also one of the first Islamic settlements in Africa, as a group of Muslims facing persecution in Mecca migrated to the Kingdom of Aksum.

St. Michael's Cathedral, Keren

St. Michael's Cathedral is a Catholic cathedral located in Keren, Anseba, Eritrea, the seat of the Eritrean Catholic Eparchy of Keren.

Sui iuris

Sui iuris, also spelled as sui juris ( or ), is a Latin phrase that literally means "of one's own right". It is used in both civil law and canon law by the Catholic Church. The term church sui iuris is used in the Catholic Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches (CCEO) to denote the autonomous churches in Catholic communion:

A church sui iuris is "a community of the Christian faithful, which is joined together by a hierarchy according to the norm of law and which is expressly or tacitly recognized as sui iuris by the supreme authority of the Church" (CCEO.27). The term sui iuris is an innovation of the CCEO, and it denotes the relative autonomy of the oriental Catholic Churches. This canonical term, pregnant with many juridical nuances, indicates the God-given mission of the Oriental Catholic Churches to keep up their patrimonial autonomous nature. And the autonomy of these churches is relative in the sense that it is under the supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff.

—Fr. Thomas Kuzhinapurath, Salvific Law, 1998

Tekle Haymanot

Tekle Haymanot or Takla Haymanot (Ge'ez ተክለ ሃይማኖት takla hāymānōt, modern tekle hāymānōt, "Plant of Faith"; known in the Coptic Church as Saint Takla Haymanot of Ethiopia) (c. 1215 – c. 1313) was an Ethiopian monk who founded a major monastery in his native province of Shewa. He is significant for being the only Ethiopian saint popular both amongst Ethiopians and outside that country. Tekle Haymanot "is the only Ethiopian saint celebrated officially in foreign churches such as Rome and Egypt." His feast day is August 17, and the 24th day of every month in the Ethiopian calendar is dedicated to Tekle Haymanot.

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