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Bishop Tsegaye Keneni: Ethiopia and Eritrea asking for first-ever papal visit

Pope Francis has already made four separate trips to Africa during his six-year pontificate – visiting countries like Kenya and Uganda to most-recently to Madagascar and Mozambique. 

Yet, there are some countries inside Africa that have never had a papal visit – Eritrea and Ethiopia are two of them. 

While Pope Francis traveled nearby to Egypt, he never made it to these near-by countries. Bishop Tsegaye Keneni, from Ethiopia, says a visit could be difficult at this current moment, with a minority Catholic population and majority Orthodox. 

Vicariate Apostolic of Soddo
“Because of that variety of cultures, it remains very difficult and delicate to have the visit of the pope at this stage. Also the Orthodox Church being the majority may not be happy to accept the pope at this stage. It's not because they don't like him. The point is, the political implications it had had because of the conflict between Ethiopia and Italians in the past.”

The bishop insists many times past conflict seems to be greater than it actually is by political messages that are sent out. Regardless, he says Pope Francis has been invited to come to the country.

Vicariate Apostolic of Soddo
“The bishops' conference keeps inviting the pope to come visit. And with that juncture, of course the government has also to invite him. They offered actually that we would be happy to have the pope with us in Ethiopia. On many occasions they have mentioned – the prime minister of today has mentioned it. So that is why I have a greater hope.” 

The Prime Minister of Ethiopia visited Pope Francis in January of 2019 inside the Vatican. It was a very pleasant, but short meeting, that could have sparked Pope Francis' interest in visiting another country in the African continent. Time will only tell. 

Melissa Butz