By Paul Samasumo - ADDIS ABABA
Close to 200 Catholic Bishops from nine African countries on Sunday led the faithful in the inauguration of the 19th Plenary Assembly of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA).
The opening Eucharistic Celebration, in the Ethiopian Catholic Rite, was held at the Don Bosco Centre. The Principal Celebrant, Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel is the current Chair of AMECEA.
The Ethiopian Catholic Church has two liturgical traditions, namely, the Ethiopian Catholic Ge-ez Rite and the Latin Rite. The Catholic Ge-ez Rite is similar to that of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Rite. The majority of Ethiopians are members of the Orthodox Church. Ethiopia’s Ge-ez Rites have had a significant role in promoting Ethiopian culture.
Though the Catholic Church in Ethiopia is small in numbers, at approximately 1 per cent of the population, the Church has tremendous influence and presence through its many schools and social development programmes.
Ethiopia: The cradle of humanity
Ethiopia is also known as the cradle of humanity due to the discovery of bones and fossils of the earliest human ancestors. Furthermore, it is a country that was never colonised, though it was occupied briefly by Italy under Mussolini.
AMECEA Bishops say ethnic diversity is a gift
Speaking earlier to Vatican News, on the occasion of the 19th AMECEA Plenary Assembly, Cardinal Berhaneyesus thanked the Dicastery of Communication of the Holy See for Vatican Radio’s programmes broadcast in Amharic and Tigrinya over the years.
The 19th AMECEA Plenary Assembly is being held under the theme, ‘Vibrant Diversity, Equal Dignity, Peaceful Unity in God in the AMECEA Region.’
Cardinal Berhaneyesus explained why the Catholic Bishops chose the theme.
“It is a timely subject because it deals with conflicts that we experience in Eastern Africa and here in the horn of Africa. During this plenary, we will not only be looking for solutions, but we also pray for lasting peace in the region,” he said.
Celebrating a beautiful gift from God
Cardinal Berhaneyesus feels that the AMECEA region needs to celebrate diversity because it (diversity) is a beautiful gift from God.
“We feel that ethnic diversity is a positive thing given by God and it is important that we respect each other and respect each other’s ethnic background and at the same time emphasise the human dignity that is in each one of us,” the Ethiopian prelate emphasised.