Ethiopian Cardinal Highlights COVID-19 “harmful side effects,” Church’s Intervention

Berhaneyesus Cardinal Souraphiel, Archbishop of Addis Abeba, Ethiopia.
Credit: Public Domain

The head of the Catholic Church in Ethiopia, Berhaneyesus Cardinal Souraphiel, has highlighted the “harmful side effects” of COVID-19 in the East African country including the loss of a Catholic Bishop and increased cases of gender-based violence (GBV).

In a recent report, Cardinal Souraphiel explained some of the initiatives the Church leadership has taken to address GBV challenge.

“The pandemic is doing a lot of damage. There have been many losses and, among these, our dear Msgr. Angelo Moreschi, Apostolic Vicar of Gambella, in western Ethiopia; he returned to Italy for health problems, he contracted COVID-19 and died on March 25, 2020,” the Ethiopian Cardinal has been quoted as saying.

He added, “The coronavirus is creating a lot of harmful side effects. One of these is the huge increase in violence against women and children recorded in the lockdown period which still reaps many victims.”

A report by the Ethiopian Press Agency indicates  that cases of domestic violence including rape and sexual assaults have been on the increase in the East African nation since COVID-19 restrictions were put in place.

The novel coronavirus has infected 15,200 people in the Horn of Africa country including 6,526 recoveries and caused the demise of 239 others. 

In the July 24 report, the Ethiopian Cardinal said that the Church in Ethiopia has partnered with local musicians in a campaign against domestic violence. 

“A very active group of artists turned to us and we wanted to stand alongside the initiative ‘Zim Alilim’ (I will not keep silent), launched by them, in order to turn on a constant spotlight on the phenomenon and prevent and protect those affected,” the Cardinal said.

He added in reference to the Zim Alilim initiative, “We have made available our commitment to protect our people from abuses and we are working with our own department dedicated to promoting the campaign and helping the victims.”

The Archbishop of Addis Ababa who doubles as the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia also highlighted the controversy over the control of the giant dam under construction on the river Nile.

“One of the most complex concerns is the Grand Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile. Ethiopia is trying to build the great dam on the river which guarantees 85% of the water to Sudan and Egypt,” the Ethiopian Cardinal said.

He explained, “Ethiopia has a great need for these waters due to the shortage of electricity. About 65% of the country has great difficulties in obtaining energy and in some remote areas, the population cuts trees to produce fuel energy. If this continues, one will soon come to worrying desertification; we cannot afford it; the dam is the tool to get out of poverty, to guarantee school accessible to everyone - especially in the lockdown period when it was not possible for many children to connect from home.”

“As a Catholic Church, we have expressed a clear position that aims at a just solution for fair use of these international waters,” Cardinal Souraphiel said in reference to the Church’s intervention in the conflict that has arisen from the proposed Grand Renaissance Dam.

On Ethiopia’s relationship with neighboring Eritrea, the Cardinal noted, “We are very confident in the steps forward made to break the historic difficulties in relations and we hope for useful developments for the two Countries.”

On July 19, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali met with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki in Asmara. The two leaders discussed further consolidation of the warm bilateral ties between the two countries as well as enhancement of regional cooperation, Africanews reported.

In February, Cardinal Souraphel and the members of the delegation he was leading were denied entry into Eritrea, spending the night at Eritrea’s Asmara airport before returning home the following day.

Addressing the faithful at Kebenna Kidanemehret Parish Church in Addis Ababa on February 23, the Cardinal urged them “to pray for our both churches and the two Sister countries for full realization of lasting peace through the Maternal Intercession of Mary Kidanemehret.”

In the July 24 report, the Local Ordinary of Addis Ababa said, “There are fundamental issues such as the use of ports and the boundaries that need be addressed and the desire is that we do it as two peoples ready to work together as good neighbors.”


ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]