Pope Francis Appoints Apostolic Visitor for Ethiopian Catholics in US and Canada

The Ethiopian flag. Credit: lkpro/Shutterstock.

Pope Francis appointed an apostolic visitor Thursday for Ethiopian Catholics in the United States and Canada. 

The pope named Fr. Tesfaye Woldemariam Fesuh, a priest of the Archdiocese of Addis Ababa, July 2 as apostolic visitor of Ge’ez Rite Catholics in the two countries. 

The move follows the pope’s decision in January to appoint an apostolic visitor for Ethiopian Catholics in Europe.

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 Ethiopian Catholic Church is one of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See. It has an estimated 71,000 members and is based in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, but also has diaspora communities in Europe, North America, and Australia.

Ge’ez is a Semitic language used in the liturgies of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, which follow the ancient Alexandrian Rite. 

Fesuh spent more than a decade in the United States, beginning in 2001. He served the Ethiopian faithful in Washington, DC, helping to bring together African Catholics in the city. 

He was a pastoral assistant at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington from 2007 to 2011.

In 2015, he returned to Ethiopia, where he now serves as chancellor of Addis Ababa archdiocese.

Earlier this year Pope Francis named Fr. Petros Berga, a priest of the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam in the Netherlands, as apostolic visitor for Catholics of the Alexandrian Ge’ez Rite resident in Europe.

Berga, who was born in Ethiopia, was ordained in the Netherlands in 1998 after studying at the Catholic University of Utrecht. While serving as a pastor in Edam, a town in the northwest of the country, he dedicated himself to the pastoral care of Ethiopian Catholics. Returning to Ethiopia, he was appointed secretary of the local bishops’ conference.

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