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The Ethiopian Catholic Church is a Metropolitan sui iuris Eastern particular Church within the Catholic Church and uses the Ethiopic liturgical rite. Its membership includes inhabitants of Ethiopiamarker and Eritreamarker. It is the Catholic "counterpart" to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, an Oriental Orthodoxy which is separated in schism from both the Catholic Church and the Eastern churches. It shares a Divine Liturgy and customs with the Ethiopian Orthodox, while differing in its Christological view some beliefs about the Sacraments, and its recognition of the Pope as the successor of St. Peter and his universal jurisdiction. Liturgical latinisation is widespread.

The differences range from the minor to significant between the Orthodox and Catholic Ethiopian Churches. On the less-important side of things, the Divine Liturgy includes prayers for the Pope to show that they are in full communion with Rome. On the more important side, a Catholic Canon of Scripture is kept and the Church is Chalcedonian in its theology, rejecting the miaphysite formula of St. Cyril. Children are not ordained to the diaconate, as is common in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and the clergy tend to wear a Roman cassock and collar, which is neither Ethiopian in custom nor Eastern in practice.


The Portuguesemarker voyages of discovery at the end of the fifteenth century opened the way for direct contacts between the Catholic Church and the Ethiopian Church. Due largely to the behaviour of the Portuguese Alfonso Mendez, whom Pope Urban VIII appointed as Patriarch of Ethiopia in 1622 and who was expelled from the country in 1636, these contacts, which had seemed destined for success, led instead to the complete closure of Ethiopia to further contact with Rome.

In 1839, Saint Justin de Jacobis arrived in the country as Prefect Apostolic of Ethiopia, in charge therefore of a Latin-rite jurisdiction. He preferred instead to use the Ethiopic liturgical rite. Many Ethiopian priests were attracted to his sanctity and his teaching, thus giving rise to what became in 1930 the Ethiopic Catholic Church, when, in view of its continual growth, an ordinariate for the Ethiopic Rite faithful of Eritrea, entrusted to an Eritrean bishop, was established. Eritrea, an Italian possession since 1894, already had a separate ecclesiastical jurisdiction, headed by an Italian titular bishop, for Latin-rite Catholics, mainly Italians.

The Latin Rite 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 nineteenth century. The Italian occupation of Ethiopia in 1936 gave rise to an increase in the number of Latin Rite 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 larger areas than before. Accordingly, in 1951, the Ethiopic Rite Apostolic Exarchate of Addis Ababamarker was established, and the ordinariate for Eritrea was elevated to the rank of exarchate. Ten years later, on 9 April 1961, an Ethiopic metropolia (ecclesiastical province) was established, with Addis Ababa as the metropolitan see and Asmaramarker (in Eritrea) and Adigratmarker (in Ethiopia) as suffragan eparchies.

In 1995, two new eparchies, Barentumarker and Kerenmarker, were established in Eritrea, and the Latin Rite apostolic vicariate was abolished. Eritrea thus became the only country where all Catholics, whatever their personal liturgical rite, belong to an Eastern Catholic jurisdiction. In 2003, one more eparchy was created in Endibirmarker in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples' Region of Ethiopia, with the result that the Ethiopic Catholic Metropolitan Church now consists of six sees, three in Ethiopia and three in Eritrea.

Ge'ez, a Semitic language fallen out of daily use several centuries ago, is the liturgical language of the Ethiopic Church, whose liturgy is based on the Coptic.

There are also Latin-Rite jurisdictions in the south of Ethiopia, none of them raised to the rank of diocese. Five are apostolic vicariates, headed by a titular bishop; two are apostolic prefectures, headed by a priest.

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