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The Eastern Catholic Churches / The Ethiopian Catholic Church

The Ethiopian Catholic Church

Number of faithfulapprox. 80,000
Title of First HierarchMetropolitan of Addis Ababa of the Ethiopians
See of the First HierarchAddis Ababa (Ethiopia)
Current incumbentCardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, born 1948, in office since 1999
Bishops and dioceses7 bishops; 4 dioceses (all in Ethiopia)
Liturgical languageOld Ethiopian (Ge'ez), Amharic
Presence in Austriaapprox. 50 faithful; 1 priest
Presence in Germanyapprox. 300 faithful

The history of the Ethiopian Catholic Church dates back to the 16th century, when the Ethiopian king asked the Portuguese and the Pope for help against Islam. After the Portuguese defeated the Muslims, the Pope sent Jesuits to the country, under whose influence King Susenyos (1607-32) became a Catholic and declared the Catholic faith as state religion. But his successor expelled the Jesuits, including Alfonso Mendez, who was appointed “Patriarch of Ethiopia” by Pope Urban VIII, from the country. It was not until the 19th century that Catholic orders (mainly Lazarists and Capuchins) were able to regain a foothold in Ethiopia. The Catholic missionary activity in the region expanded from 1889, when Eritrea became an Italian colony (until 1941). In 1951, an Apostolic Exarchate was established in Addis Ababa, which was raised to a metropolis in 1961 with suffragan bishoprics in Asmara and Adigrat. After Eritrea became an independent state in 1993, the majority of Uniate Ethiopians resided outside of Ethiopia. Since the establishment of an independent Eritrean Catholic Church, the jurisdiction of the Church has again been limited to Ethiopia.


  • K. Robinson, The Ethiopian Catholic Church. A Tale of Two Rites, in: One in Christ 42 (2008) 46-74.
  • W. Hage, Die Äthiopisch-Katholische Kirche, in: ders., Das orientalische Christentum, Stuttgart 2007, 439-441.
  • F. Heyer, Die Kirche Äthiopiens, Berlin/New York 1971, 291-308.