Ethiopian Catholic Church

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Ethiopian Catholic Church
Cathedral of the Holy Saviour, Adigrat .jpg
Classification Eastern Catholic Church
Polity Episcopal
Governance Metropolitanate
Pope Francis
Archbishop Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel [1] [2]
Region Ethiopia
Liturgy Alexandrian Rite
Headquarters Addis Ababa
FounderSaint Mark the Evangelist, by tradition
Origin20 February 1951
Congregations207 (2010)
Members70,832 (2017) [3]
Ministers 590 [4]

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

A metropolis religious jurisdiction, or a metropolitan archdiocese, is an episcopal see whose bishop is the metropolitan bishop of an ecclesiastical province. Metropolises, historically, have been important cities in their provinces.

Sui iuris, also spelled as sui juris, 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 Eastern 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.

Eastern Christianity Christian traditions originating from Greek- and Syriac-speaking populations

Eastern Christianity comprises church families that developed outside the Occident, with major bodies including the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox churches, the Eastern Catholic Churches, and the denominations descended from the Church of the East. It also includes Reformed Eastern churches such as the Malankara Marthoma Syrian Church which follows a reformed West Syriac Rite and the Ukrainian Lutheran Church that uses the Byzantine Rite. Historically called the Eastern Church in contrast with the (Latin) Western Church, since the Protestant Reformation Eastern Christianity is used in contrast with Western Christianity, comprising both the said Latin Church as well as Protestantism and Independent Catholicism. Eastern Christianity consists of the Christian traditions and churches that developed distinctively over several centuries in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Malabar coast of South India, and parts of the Far East. The term does not describe a single communion or religious denomination. Some Eastern churches have more in common historically and theologically with Western Christianity than with one another. The various Eastern churches do not normally refer to themselves as "Eastern", with the exception of the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East.


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.

Eastern Catholic Churches Autonomous, self-governing particular Churches in full communion with the Pope

The Eastern Catholic Churches or Oriental Catholic Churches, also called the Eastern-rite Catholic Churches, and in some historical cases Uniate Churches, are twenty-three Eastern Christian particular churches sui iuris in full communion with the Pope in Rome, as part of the worldwide Catholic Church. Headed by patriarchs, metropolitans, and major archbishops, the Eastern Catholic Churches are governed in accordance with the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, although each church also has its own canons and laws on top of this, and the preservation of their own traditions is explicitly encouraged. The total membership of the various churches accounts for about 18 million, according to the Annuario Pontificio, thus making up about 1.5 percent of the Catholic Church, with the rest of its more than 1.3 billion members belonging to the Latin Church, also known as the Western Church or the Roman Catholic Church.

Full communion is a communion or relationship of full understanding among different Christian denominations that share certain essential principles of Christian theology. Views vary among denominations on exactly what constitutes full communion, but typically when two or more denominations are in full communion it enables services and celebrations, such as the Eucharist, to be shared among congregants or clergy of any of them with the full approval of each.

Holy See Episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, Italy

The Holy See, also called the See of Rome, refers to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope, which includes the apostolic episcopal see of the Diocese of Rome with universal ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the worldwide Catholic Church, as well as a sovereign entity of international law.

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.

Semitic languages a branch of the Afroasiatic language family native to the Middle East

The Semitic languages, previously also named Syro-Arabian languages, are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East that are spoken by more than 330 million people across much of Western Asia, North Africa and the Horn of Africa, as well as in often large immigrant and expatriate communities in North America, Europe and Australia. The terminology was first used in the 1780s by members of the Göttingen School of History, who derived the name from Shem, one of the three sons of Noah in the Book of Genesis.

Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria major transnational Oriental Orthodox church led by the Patriarch of Alexandria on the Holy See of St. Mark

The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria is an Oriental Orthodox Christian church based in Egypt, Africa and the Middle East. The head of the Church and the See of Alexandria is the Patriarch of Alexandria on the Holy See of Saint Mark, who also carries the title of Coptic Pope. The See of Alexandria is titular, and today the Coptic Pope presides from Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in the Abbassia District in Cairo. The church follows the Alexandrian Rite for its liturgy, prayer and devotional patrimony. With 18–22 million members worldwide, whereof about 15 to 20 million are in Egypt, it is the country's largest Christian church.


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.

Eritrean Catholic Church Metropolitan sui iuris Eastern particular church

The Eritrean Catholic Church is a Metropolitan sui iuris Eastern particular church headquartered in Asmara, Eritrea. It was established in 2015 by separation of its territory from that of the Ethiopian Catholic Church and the setting up in that territory of a new sui iuris metropolitan Eastern Catholic Church. It follows the Ge'ez form of the Alexandrian liturgical rite.

Liturgy is the customary public worship performed by a religious group. As a religious phenomenon, liturgy represents a communal response to and participation in the sacred through activity reflecting praise, thanksgiving, supplication or repentance. It forms a basis for establishing a relationship with a divine agency, as well as with other participants in the liturgy.


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]

Portugal Republic in Southwestern Europe

Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic, is a country located mostly on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. It is the westernmost sovereign state of mainland Europe, being bordered to the west and south by the Atlantic Ocean and to the north and east by Spain. Its territory also includes the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, both autonomous regions with their own regional governments.

Age of Discovery Period of European global exploration

The Age of Discovery, or the Age of Exploration, is an informal and loosely defined term for the period in European history in which extensive overseas exploration emerged as a powerful factor in European culture and which was the beginning of globalization. It also marks the rise of the period of widespread adoption in Europe of colonialism and mercantilism as national policies. Many lands previously unknown to Europeans were discovered by them during this period, though most were already inhabited. From the perspective of many non-Europeans, the Age of Discovery marked the arrival of invaders from previously unknown continents.

Catholic Church Largest Christian church, led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest and largest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

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]

Adal Sultanate Former Somali kingdom and sultanate located in the Horn of Africa

The Adal Sultanate, or Kingdom of Adal, was a Muslim Somali kingdom and sultanate located in the Horn of Africa. It was founded by Sabr ad-Din II after the fall of the Sultanate of Ifat. The kingdom flourished from around 1415 to 1577. The sultanate and state were established by the local inhabitants of Zeila. At its height, the polity controlled most of the territory in the Horn region immediately east of the Ethiopian Empire (Abyssinia). The Adal Empire maintained a robust commercial and political relationship with the Ottoman Empire.

Pedro Páez Spanish Jesuit

Pedro Páez Jaramillo was a Spanish Jesuit missionary in Ethiopia. Páez is considered by many experts on Ethiopia to be the most effective Catholic missionary in Ethiopia. He is believed to be the first European to see and describe the source of the Blue Nile.

Pope Gregory XV Pope from 1621 to 1623

Pope Gregory XV, born Alessandro Ludovisi, was Pope from 9 February 1621 to his death in 1623.

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]

Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Abeba Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel.jpg
Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Abeba Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel

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 a sui iuris Eastern Catholic Church, thus granting it autonomy 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 the Medhani Alem Catholic Church in Adigrat Interior of Medhani Alem Catholic Church - Adigrat - Ethiopia (8707721278).jpg
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

Related Research Articles

Abyssinia may refer to:

Coptic Catholic Church Coptic Catholic Church is an Alexandrian Rite particular Church in full communion with the Pope of Rome

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 in its liturgy, whereas the Ethiopian Catholic Church and Eritrean Catholic Church use the Alexandrian Rite in the Ge'ez language.

Adigrat City in Tigray, Ethiopia

Adigrat is a city and separate woreda in the Tigray Regional State of Ethiopia. It is located in the Misraqawi Zone at longitude and latitude 14°16′N39°27′E, with an elevation of 2,457 metres (8,061 ft) above sea level and below a high ridge to the west. Adigrat is the last important Ethiopian city south of the border with Eritrea, and is considered to be a strategically important gateway to Eritrea and the Red Sea. Adigrat was part of Ganta Afeshum woreda before a separate woreda was created for the city. Currently, Adigrat serves as the capital of the Eastern Tigray zone.

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.

Christianity in Eritrea

Eritrea is a multi-religious country; Eritrea has two dominant religions Islam and Christianity. According to the United States Department of State (USDoS) estimated that 50% of the population was Christian, around 48% was Muslim. According to the Pew Research Center, 62.9% are followers of Christianity, mostly followers of Orthodox Christianity and, to a lesser extent, Roman Catholicism and Eritrean Catholicism.

Ethiopian Catholic Archeparchy of Addis Abeba archeparchy

The Ethiopian Catholic Archeparchy of Addis Ababa, officially the Metropolitan sui iuris Archeparchy of Addis Ababa is the metropolitan see of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, a sui iuris metropolitan Eastern Catholic Church.

Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church Oriental Orthodox church

The Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church is an Oriental Orthodox church with its headquarters in Asmara, Eritrea. Its autocephaly was recognised by Shenouda III, Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria after Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993.

Orthodox Tewahedo is the common and historical name of two Oriental Orthodox churches. These are the predominant Orthodox Christian denominations in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Ethiopian Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat eparchy

The Ethiopian Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat is a Catholic eparchy located in the city of Adigrat, Ethiopia. It is in the ecclesiastical province of Addis Ababa.

Eritrean Catholic Archeparchy of Asmara metropolitan archeparchy

The Eritrean Catholic Archeparchy of Asmara, officially the Archeparchy of Asmara, 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.

Eritrean Catholic Eparchy of Barentu eparchy

The Eritrean Catholic Eparchy of Barentu 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 eparchy

The Eritrean Catholic Eparchy of Keren 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.

The Eritrean Catholic Eparchy of Segheneyti 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.

The Ethiopian Catholic Eparchy of Bahir Dar–Dessie is one of the three suffragan eparchies in the ecclesiastical province 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.

Apostolic Vicariate of Eritrea apostolic vicariate

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.

Bita (Mauretania)

Bita was an ancient city and former Roman Catholic diocese in the Roman province of Africa Proconsularis. It is now a Latin Catholic titular see.

The Apostolic Prefecture of Dessié was a Roman Catholic Church pre-diocesan missionary jurisdiction, with its seat in the north-central town of Dessie, Ethiopia. It existed from 1937 to 1951.

The Apostolic Prefecture of Gondar was a pre-diocesan Christian missionary jurisdiction with its ecclesiastical seat in Gondar, Ethiopia. It existed from 1937 to 1951. The prefecture was a Roman Catholic diocese.


  1. 1 2 3 Roberson, Ronald G. "The Ethiopian Catholic Church". Eastern Catholic Churches. Catholic Near East Welfare Association. p. 2. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  2. 1 2 3 "Metropolitan Archdiocese of Addis Abeba". Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  3. The Eastern Catholic Churches 2017
  4. 1 2 Roberson, Ronald G. "The Eastern Catholic Churches 2010" (PDF). Eastern Catholic Churches Statistics. Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  5. 1 2 3 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