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New cardinal profile: Archbishop Berhaneyesus Souraphiel

January 09, 2015

Third on the list of new cardinals announced by Pope Francis on January 4 is Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, 66, of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. Archbishop Souraphiel’s predecessor was also a cardinal.

Archbishop Souraphiel, a Vincentian, is head of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic church in full communion with the Holy See. He also serves as president of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA), and under his leadership, AMECEA strongly condemned homosexual unions in a July 2014 statement.

Born in 1948 in east-central Ethiopia, the future prelate was a member of a Latin-rite apostolic vicariate and entered a Vincentian minor seminary in Ethiopia in 1963. After further seminary studies in Ethiopia, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1976.

From 1980 to 1983, he served at the Vincentians’ motherhouse in Rome and pursued studies in sociology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He returned to Ethiopia and became a local Vincentian superior in 1990.

In 1994, St. John Paul II named Father Souraphiel the first head of the Apostolic Prefecture of Jimma-Bonga, a Latin-rite missionary ecclesial structure in southwestern Ethiopia. In 1997, the Pope named him auxiliary bishop and apostolic administrator of the Eastern-rite Archdiocese of Addis Ababa; his predecessor, Cardinal Paolos Tzadua, retired the following year.

Archbishop Souraphiel was named archbishop of Addis Ababa in 1999 and thus became the head of the Eastern-rite Ethiopian Catholic Church. Since 1999, he has also served as president of the Episcopal Conference of Ethiopia and Eritrea, which includes both Latin-rite and Eastern-rite bishops.

The Eastern-rite Ethiopian Catholic Church has 223,000 members, most of them in Ethiopia and Eritrea. According to Vatican statistics, there are 926,000 Catholics of various rites in Ethiopia-- just over 1% of the nation’s population. 44% of Ethiopians are Ethiopian Orthodox, 34% are Muslim, and 19% are Protestant.

While the Catholic Church in Ethiopia is small, it is vibrant: 581 priests and 766 sisters serve in 297 parishes. There are 275 seminarians.

 


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