The flag of Eritrea. / Creative Photo Corner/Shutterstock.
Vatican City, Jan 19, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).
Pope Francis appointed an apostolic visitor on Wednesday for Eritrean Catholics in the United States and Canada.
The pope named Father Tesfaldet Tekie Tsada, chaplain of the Eritrean community of Los Angeles, on Jan. 19 as apostolic visitor of Eritrean Catholics of the Alexandrian Ge’ez Rite in the two countries.
The Vatican announced on the same day that the pope had chosen an apostolic visitor for Eritrean Catholics in Europe: Msgr. Kesete Ghebreyohannes Weldegebriel, protosyncellus of the Archeparchy of Asmara, the metropolitan see of the Eritrean Catholic Church.
The move follows the pope’s decision in January 2020 to appoint an apostolic visitor for Ethiopian Catholics in Europe and name an apostolic visitor for Ethiopian Catholics in the U.S. and Canada in July of that year.
In the Latin Rite Church, an apostolic visitor refers to officials who perform a short-term mission on behalf of the pope. But in the Eastern Catholic Churches, an apostolic visitor often has a long-term role supervising communities which do not yet have their own ordinary.
The Eritrean Catholic Church is one of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See. It has an estimated 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 following a decades-long war.
The Eritrean Catholic Church traces its roots to apostolic times and uses the ancient Ge’ez language in its liturgies, which are celebrated according to the Alexandrian Rite, associated with St. Mark the Evangelist.
Pope Francis agreed in 2015 to formally separate the Eritrean Catholic Church from the Ethiopian Catholic Church, establishing it as a sui iuris (“of one’s own right”) metropolitan church, with Asmara as its metropolitan see.