The Eritrean Catholic Church is one of 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Wednesday appointed an apostolic visitor for Eritrean Catholics in the United States and Canada.
On January 19, the pope appointed Father Tesfaldet Tekie Tsada, chaplain of the Eritrean community of Los Angeles, as the apostolic visitor of Eritrean Catholics of the Ge’ez Alexandrian rite in the two countries.
The Vatican announced the same day that the Pope had chosen an apostolic visitor for Eritrean Catholics in Europe: Msgr. Kesete Ghebreyohannes Weldegebriel, protosyncel of the Archeparchy of Asmara, metropolitan seat of the Eritrean Catholic Church.
This decision follows the Pope’s decision in January 2020 to appoint an Apostolic Visitor for Ethiopian Catholics in Europe and to appoint an Apostolic Visitor for Ethiopian Catholics in the United States and Canada in July of the same year.
In the Latin Rite Church, an apostolic visitor refers to officials who carry out a short-term mission on behalf of the Pope. But in the Eastern Catholic Churches, an apostolic visitor often has a long-term role of supervising communities which do not yet have an ordinary.
The Eritrean Catholic Church is one of 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See. It has around 168,000 members and is based in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, but also has diaspora communities around the world.
Eritrea is a Northeast African country with a population of 6 million that borders Ethiopia, Sudan and Djibouti. In 2019, the government nationalized schools and hospitals run by the Catholic Church.
Eritrea gained independence from its larger neighbor Ethiopia in 1991 after a decades-long war.
The Eritrean Catholic Church has its roots in apostolic times and uses the ancient Ge’ez language in its liturgies, which are celebrated according to the Alexandrian rite, associated with Saint Mark the Evangelist.
Pope Francis agreed in 2015 to formally separate the Eritrean Catholic Church from the Ethiopian Catholic Church, establishing it as a metropolitan church sui iuris (“in its own right”), with Asmara as its metropolitan see.