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 Catholic Church
Cathedral of the Holy Saviour, Adigrat
ClassificationEastern Catholic Church
ArchbishopCardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel[1][2]
LiturgyAlexandrian Rite
HeadquartersAddis Ababa
FounderSaint Mark the Evangelist, by tradition
Origin20 February 1951
SeparationsEritrean Catholic Church (2015)
Congregations207 (2010)
Members610,714 (2010) [3]


The term "Ethiopic Catholic Church", which was synonymous with "Ethiopian Catholic Church" until January 2015, when the Eritrean Catholic Church was established, can be applied to either church or to both jointly, since their liturgy is celebrated in the Ethiopic or Ge'ez language.


The Portuguese voyages of discovery opened the way for direct contacts between the Catholic Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. In the 14th century, Catholic missionaries arrived in Ethiopia. On August 28, 1439, Pope Eugene IV sent a message of unity with the Catholic Church to Ethiopian Emperor Constantine I but this effort was unsuccessful.[5]

With Islamic attacks up to 1531 threatening Christian Ethiopia, an appeal from the Emperor to the Portuguese brought support to defeat the Adal Sultanate in the Ethiopian–Adal War. Jesuit missionaries came with the Portuguese to Ethiopia. These missionaries focused their conversion activities with the country's governing class including the Emperor to have the Ethiopian Orthodox Church unite with the Catholic Church. The Emperor Susenyos was converted primarily by Father Pedro Páez. In 1622, Susenyos made Catholicism the state religion. The next year, Pope Gregory XV named Afonso Mendes, a Portuguese Jesuit, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Church. A formal union in 1626 was declared when Patriarch Mendes came to the country. With Mendes trying to Latinize the Ethiopian church, Susenyos used force to impose the latinization. Public backlash resulted. In 1632, Susenyos died. His successor Fasilides in 1636 removed Mendes from the country, ended the union with Rome and removed or killed the remaining missionaries. For the next 200 years, Ethiopia was closed to Catholic Missions.[5]

In 1839, Italian Lazarists and Capuchins resumed, albeit within certain limitations imposed due to strong public opposition. That same year, Justin de Jacobis was appointed first Prefect Apostolic of Abyssinia and entrusted with the foundation of Catholic missions in that country. After laboring with great success in Abyssinia for eight years, he was appointed titular Bishop of Nilopolis in 1847, and shortly afterwards Vicar Apostolic of Abyssinia, but he refused the episcopal dignity until it was finally forced upon him in 1849.[6]

In 1919, the Pontifical Ethiopian College was founded within the Vatican walls by Pope Benedict XV with St. Stephen's Church, behind St. Peter's Basilica, as the designated church for the College.[1]

The Latin Church had become established in the south of Ethiopia in areas that had not been Christian and that were incorporated into the modern country only at the end of the 19th century. The Italian occupation of Ethiopia in 1936 gave rise to an increase in the number of Latin-Church jurisdictions, but the expulsion of foreign missionaries at the end of the Second World War meant that the Ethiopic Rite clergy had to take responsibility for areas thus denuded of Catholic clergy. Accordingly, in 1951, the Ethiopic Rite Apostolic Exarchate of Addis Ababa was established, and the ordinariate for Eritrea was elevated to the rank of exarchate. Ten years later, on February 20, 1961, an Ethiopic ecclesiastical province was established, with Addis Ababa as the Metropolitan See[2] and Asmara (in Eritrea) and Adigrat (in Ethiopia) as suffragan eparchies.[5]

In 1995, two new eparchies, Barentu and Keren, were established in Eritrea,[4] and the Latin-Church apostolic vicariate was abolished. Eritrea thus became the only country where all Catholics, whatever Church of their canonical ascription, belong to an Eastern Catholic jurisdiction.[1] In 2003, one more eparchy was created in Endibir in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples' Region of Ethiopia.[2]

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.[7]

There are also Latin-Church jurisdictions in the south of Ethiopia, none of them raised to the rank of diocese. Eight are apostolic vicariates and one is an apostolic prefecture.


There are four eparchies (bishoprics) in the country:[8]

Differences between the Catholic and Orthodox Ethiopian Churches

Interior of Medhani Alem Catholic Church - Adigrat - Ethiopia (8707721278)
Interior of the Medhani Alem Catholic Church in Adigrat

Doctrinal distinctions between the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Catholic Ethiopian Churches include recognition of the Council of Chalcedon. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has a broader canon of Scripture than the Catholic Church.[13] The order of the diaconate is reserved for adult men in the Catholic Church, but boys are commonly ordained as deacons in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Ethiopian Catholic clergy also tend to dress in the Roman cassock and collar, distinct from the Ethiopian Orthodox custom.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Roberson, Ronald G. "The Ethiopian Catholic Church". Eastern Catholic Churches. Catholic Near East Welfare Association. p. 2. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  2. ^ a b c "Metropolitan Archdiocese of Addis Abeba". Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  3. ^ "Dioceses". Ethiopian Catholic Agency. Ethiopian Catholic Church. Archived from the original on 12 September 2013. Retrieved 7 October 2013.
  4. ^ a b Roberson, Ronald G. "The Eastern Catholic Churches 2010" (PDF). Eastern Catholic Churches Statistics. Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  5. ^ a b c Roberson, Ronald G. "The Ethiopian Catholic Church". Eastern Catholic Churches. Catholic Near East Welfare Association. p. 1. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  6. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Blessed Justin de Jacobis" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  7. ^ "Erezione della Chiesa Metropolitana sui iuris eritrea e nomina del primo Metropolita". Holy See Press Office. January 19, 2015. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
  8. ^ "Ethiopian Catholic Church Current Dioceses". Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  9. ^ "Archeparchy of Addis Abeba (Ethiopian)". Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  10. ^ "Eparchy of Adigrat (Ethiopian)". Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  11. ^ "Eparchy of Bahir Dar - Dessie (Ethiopian)". Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  12. ^ "Eparchy of Emdeber (Ethiopian)". Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  13. ^ Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Faith and Order:The Bible

External links

Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel

Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel (born Tchela Claka, Ethiopia, 14 July 1948) is an Ethiopian Catholic cardinal. He is the head of the Ethiopian Catholic Church since his election in 1999, Ethiopian Catholic Archbishop of Addis Abeba, and the Chancellor for The Catholic University of Eastern Africa. He was elevated to the cardinalate by Pope Francis in 2015.

Cathedral of the Holy Saviour, Adigrat

The Cathedral of the Holy Saviour (Amharic: በመንፈስ ቅዱስ በመድኃኒታችን ካቴድራል), also called Adigrat Cathedral, is a Catholic church located in Adigrat, Ethiopia. It is the main place of worship of the Ethiopian Catholic Church. The cathedral is the mother church of the Eparchy of Adigrat (Eparchia Adigratensis). It belonged to the archeparchy of Addis Ababa (Archieparchia Neanthopolitana), which was elevated to its current status in 1961 by Pope John XXIII through the bull "Quod Venerabiles".

The cathedral was built on a site called Welwalo, which was reserved after World War II for the construction of a church, it was the first parish and, after the establishment of the Eparchy and with some additions, became the cathedral being dedicated to the Holy Savior on 19 April 1969, was realized on the basis of an Italian project including the great mural Giudizio Universale (1970) of the Ethiopian artist Afewerk Tekle.

Catholic Church in Ethiopia

The Catholic Church in Ethiopia is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope in Rome.

The Oriental Ethiopian Catholic Church, the primary organization of Catholicism in the country, is especially close to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, whose doctrine and liturgical tradition it shares. While separated by their understanding of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, the Ethiopian Catholic and Orthodox Churches have basically the same sacraments and liturgy. As of 2010, there were 610,714 members of the Ethiopian Catholic Church. There are also a small number of Latin-Rite Catholics in the country, primarily Italian Ethiopians.

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 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.

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 Eparchy of Adigrat

The Ethiopian Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat (Latin: Eparchia Adigratensis) is a Catholic eparchy located in the city of Adigrat, Ethiopia. It is in the ecclesiastical province of Addis Ababa.

Ethiopian Catholic Eparchy of Bahir Dar–Dessie

The Ethiopian Catholic Eparchy of Bahir Dar–Dessie (Bahir Dar–Dessie of the Ethiopics) is one of the three suffragan eparchies (Eastern Catholic dioceses) in the ecclesiastical province (covering all Ethiopia) of the Metropolitan Ethiopian Catholic Archeparchy of Addis Abeba, which comprises the entire Ethiopian Catholic Church sui iuris, which practices the Alexandrian Rite in the liturgical Ge'ez language. Yet it depends on the missionary Roman Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

Despite the eparchy's double name, also mentioning Dessie (another Amhara city in northern Ethiopia), the diocese has its sole cathedral eparchial (episcopal) see in the Cathedral of Egziabher Ab, in Bahir Dar.

The Eparchy of Bahir Dar – Dessie comprises 8 Zones of Amhara Regional State:

North Gondar

South Gondar

East Gojam

West Gojam

Agew Awi

Wag Hemra

North Wello

South WelloThe Special Oromia Zone

1 Zone of Benishangul Gumuz Regional State:

Metekel Zone3 Zones of Afar Regional State:

Zone 1

Zone 4

Zone 5

Ethiopian Catholic Eparchy of Emdeber

The Ethiopian Catholic Eparchy of Emdeber (Latin: Emdeberen(sis)) is an eparchy (Eastern Catholic diocese) of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, a metropolitan Eastern Catholic Church. It is a suffragan of the Ethiopian Catholic Archeparchy of Addis Ababa.

It is named after the town of Emdibir, where it has its cathedral, St. Anthony Cathedral, Endibir.

Its name, like that of the town, is transliterated in different ways: Eparchy of Emdibir, Endibir, Endeber and Indibir.

Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (Amharic: የኢትዮጵያ:ኦርቶዶክስ:ተዋሕዶ:ቤተ:ክርስቲያን; Yäityop'ya ortodoks täwahedo bétäkrestyan) is the largest of the Oriental Orthodox Christian churches. One of the few pre-colonial Christian churches in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has a membership of between 45 and 50 million people, the majority of whom live in Ethiopia. It is a founding member of the World Council of Churches. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is in communion with the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, having gained autocephaly in 1959.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church was administratively part of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria from the first half of the 4th century until 1959, when it was granted its own patriarch by Cyril VI, Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. As one of the oldest Christian churches and a non-Chalcedonian church, it is not in communion with the Ethiopian Catholic Church. Ethiopia is the second country historically, following only Armenia, to have officially proclaimed Christianity as state religion (in AD 333).

Tewahedo (Ge'ez ተዋሕዶ) is a Ge'ez word meaning "being made one". This word refers to the Oriental Orthodox belief in the one perfectly unified nature of Christ; i.e., a complete union of the divine and human natures into one nature is self-evident in order to accomplish the divine salvation of humankind, as opposed to the "two natures of Christ" belief commonly held by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran and most Protestant churches. The Oriental Orthodox churches adhere to a Miaphysitic Christological view followed by Cyril of Alexandria, the leading protagonist in the Christological debates of the 4th and 5th centuries, who advocated "mia physis tou theou logou sesarkōmenē", or "one (mia) nature of the Word of God incarnate" (μία φύσις τοῦ θεοῦ λόγου σεσαρκωμένη) and a "union according to hypostasis" (ἕνωσις καθ' ὑπόστασιν henōsis kath' hypostasin), or hypostatic union. The distinction of this stance was that the incarnate Christ has one nature, but that one nature is of the two natures, divine and human, and retains all the characteristics of both after the union.

Miaphysitism holds that in the one person of Jesus Christ, divinity and humanity are united in one (μία, mia - "united") nature (φύσις - "physis") without separation, without confusion, without alteration and without mixing where Christ is consubstantial with God the Father. Around 500 bishops within the Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem refused to accept the dyophysitism (two natures) doctrine decreed by the Council of Chalcedon in 451, an incident that resulted in the first major split in the main body of the Christian Church.The Oriental Orthodox churches, which today include the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Malankara Orthodox Church of India, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, are referred to as "Non-Chalcedonian", and, sometimes incorrectly by outsiders as "monophysite". Monophysitism is a theology adopted by a 5th-century presbyter and archimandrite in Constantinople known as Eutyches and claims that Christ has "one single nature" where his divinity absorbed his humanity resulting in a "simple" mathematical "one" nature to which the Oriental Orthodox churches object. According to these, both natures in Christ are perfectly preserved after the union in "mia physis"—one nature; yet, not resulting in a distinct third nature.

Felix Mary Ghebreamlak

The Venerable Felix Maria Ghebreamlak, O.Cist, (23 June 1895 – 8 June 1934) was an Eritrean monk and priest of the Ethiopian Catholic Church who worked to bring the Cistercian Order to his homeland. A process seeking his canonization is underway.

François Abraha

François Abraha (2 April 1918 – 26 March 2000) was appointed by Pope John XXIII in 1961 as the first autonomous Bishop of Asmara, which at that time was a part of the Ethiopian Catholic Church. He went on to attend the sessions of the Second Vatican Council.

François Abraha was known for his ecumenical openness and for his activism against the Derg in Ethiopia. He repeatedly protested against Soviet involvement in the Eritrean struggle for independence.

Kidane-Mariam Teklehaimanot

Kidane-Mariam Teklehaimanot (10 September 1933, Alitena - 2 June 2009) was a bishop of the Ethiopian Catholic Church. He served as the Eparch of Adigrat, in the northern Tigray Region, from his consecration on 12 October 1984, until his retirement on 16 November 2001. He was succeeded by Tesfasellassie Medhin.

Teklehaimanot held the title of Eparch Emeritus until his death on 2 June 2009, at the age of 75.

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)

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.

Paulos Tzadua

Paulos Tzadua (25 August 1921–11 December 2003) was the first Ethiopian Cardinal. He served as Archbishop of Addis Abeba and was the head of the Ethiopian Catholic Church from 1977 to 1998.

Santo Stefano degli Abissini

St Stephen of the Abyssinians (Italian: Santo Stefano degli Abissini) is an Ethiopian Catholic church located in Vatican City. The church dedicated to Stephen the Protomartyr is the national church of Ethiopia. The liturgy is celebrated according to the Alexandrian rite of the Ethiopian Catholic Church. It is one of the only standing structures in the Vatican (besides the clementine chapel, niche of the pallia, the apostolic palace complex) to survive the destruction of old St. Peter's basilica, and thus it is the oldest surviving church (in terms of architectural history) in Vatican City.


Teklehaimanot is a surname of Ethiopian origin. It is derived from the name of an Ethiopian monk and saint, Tekle Haymanot (c. 1215 – c. 1313). People with that name include:

Abraham Teklehaimanot (born before 2008), Ethiopian football player and coach

Daniel Teklehaimanot (born 1988), Eritrean professional road racing cyclist

Fitsum Teklehaimanot (born 1987), Ethiopian international football player

Hailu Tekle Haymanot (AKA Hailu II of Gojjam, 1868–1950), Ethiopian nobleman and military commander

Kidane-Mariam Teklehaimanot (1933-2009), bishop of the Ethiopian Catholic Church

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