The Ethiopian Catholic Church, the primary organization of Roman Catholicism in the country, is especially close to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, whose doctrine and liturgical tradition she 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.
Size and organization
In the 2007 census, nationwide 532,187 people were reported as professing Roman Catholicism. There are eleven territorial jurisdictions including 1 metropolitan see, 2 episcopal sees and 8 Apostolic Vicariates:
- Apostolic Vicariate of Awasa
- Apostolic Vicariate of Harar
- Apostolic Vicariate of Meki
- Apostolic Vicariate of Nekemte
- Apostolic Vicariate of Soddo
- Apostolic Vicariate of Hosanna
- Apostolic Vicariate of Gambella
- Apostolic Vicariate of Jimma–Bonga
Around the year 341 A.D., Saint Frumentius (Abune Salama Kesatie Berhan) was consecrated the first Bishop of Ethiopia by the great Saint Athanasius,Patriarch of Alexandria, who was in union with the Bishop of Rome. Thus the Bishop of Alexandria was the bridge between the Bishop of Rome and the Bishop of Ethiopia.
When the Church in Alexandria and in Ethiopia split from the Church in Rome in the sixth century due to an unfortunate Christological misunderstanding, the Church which had been one became divided.
Between the 13th_18th centuries, various consistent missionary attempts had been carried out in Ethiopia to re-introduce Catholicism. Since there was already a Christian church in the Country, most of the missionary attempts were not concerned with the conversion of the non-Christians, but securing the adhesion to the Holy See of the existing Church. Yet these missions eventually failed due to the national-religious attachment of the Ethiopians, in particular, the Coptic party, to their Monophysite doctrine, and the strict link between religious and political struggles.
The Portuguese voyages of discovery at the end of the fifteenth century opened the way for direct contacts between the Church in Rome and the Church in Ethiopia. Due largely to the behaviour of the Portuguese Afonso Mendes, whom Pope Urban VIII appointed as Patriarch of Ethiopia in 1622. Emperor Fasilides expelled the Patriarch and the European missionaries, who included Jerónimo Lobo, from the country in 1636; these contacts, which had seemed destined for success under the previous Emperor, led instead to the complete closure of Ethiopia to further contact with Rome.
From 1839 Msgr. Justin de Jacobis, and subsequently Cardinal Guglielmo Massaia, resumed Catholic missionary activities. The Catholic communities presently found in Ethiopia are mostly the fruit of the vigorous work of the above-mentioned missionaries, de Jacobis, and Cardinal Massaja.
During the Italian occupation of Ethiopia catholicism was strongly supported, mostly by the Italian community of Addis Abeba.
- Statistical Tables for the 2007 Population and Housing Census of Ethiopia: Country level, Table 3.3. Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia website
- Map of the boundaries of the Catholic Church in Ethiopia
- Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat official website