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The Eritrean Orthodox Church

By year 333 C.E., Orthodox churches were built and the Gospel was heard in Eritrea. The Orthodox Church grew tremendously in the high lands of Eritrea and the Good news spread very fast to other parts of Eritrea as well as in the neighboring country, Ethiopia. Soon Christianity was adopted by King Ezana as the official religion of the Kingdom of Axum, which was ruling Eritrea and, Tigray, northern part of Ethiopia.

Christianity began to decline in the 7th century in the wake of Muslim invasions. The region retained certain independence until it fell under Ottoman rule in the 16th century. Eritrea was an Italian colony from 1890 to 1941, when it was captured by the British. It entered a federation with Ethiopia in 1952, and was annexed as an Ethiopian province in 1962. A lengthy struggle for self-rule culminated with the country's declaration of independence on May 24, 1993.

In July 1993, the bishops of the country appealed to Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt to obtain separation from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and autocephalous status or "family" of self-governing Church. On September 28, 1993, the Coptic Holy Synod responded favorably to this request and authorized the training of as many as ten future bishops for the Eritrean Church in Coptic monasteries. On June 19, 1994, Pope Shenouda ordained five of these new bishops in Cairo.Egypt.

The process of the establishment of an independent Eritrean Orthodox Church took place in consultation with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. In early September 1993, Patriarch Paulos of Ethiopia and Archbishop Philipos sanctioned the separation of the two sister churches, while stating their desire to work closely together. In February 1994 an agreement was signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that reaffirmed the autocephalous status of both the Ethiopian and Eritrean sister churches. Also, both recognized a primacy of honor of the Coptic Church among the Oriental Orthodox churches in Africa.

His Holiness Patriarch Philipos I, 1st Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church



After intensive prayer and discussions among church leaders in April 1998, His Grace Bishop Philipos, the bishop of Asmara, was chosen as the first Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church.


On May 8, 1998, His Grace Bishop Philipos was ordained as Patriarch of Eritrea, in Cairo, Egypt, by HH. Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Church.


Also, on this day a protocol between the Holy Synods of the Eritrean and Coptic churches was signed. It provided for close cooperation between the two churches, including the holding of a common general synod at least every three years, the commemoration of the heads of both churches in all liturgies, the formation of a common delegation in theological dialogues with other churches, and the establishment of a standing committee of the two synods to promote cooperation in such areas as theological education, social services, and development projects.


On September 18, 2002. H.H. Patriarch Philipos, after a short ailment, passed away of natural death in Asmara, Eritrea, at the age of 101.


His Holiness Patriarch Yacob I, 2nd Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church



On December 4, 2002, after the death of the first patriarch, the Eritrean Orthodox Church enthroned Abune Yacob as the 2nd patriarch of the Church. However, Abune Yacob also passed away a year later on December 1, 2003.


His Holiness Patriarch Antonios I, 3rd Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church



On March 4, 2004 His holiness Abune Antonios was elected as the 3rd Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church by the joint vote of the Holy Synod, representatives of all dioceses, and delegates from the Holy Synod of the Egyptian Orthodox Church.


The Eritrean Orthodox Church is steadfastly committed to the glory of God. She has seen God's hand guide, protect, and even reprove her in the long seventeen hundred years of her existence. The Church was born out of persecution for the sake of the gospel, nurtured in adversity, and strengthened as she sought to fulfill her Master's call. She strives to keep her eyes fixed on Christ Jesus, her Savior and Lord. By the strength of his Spirit she endeavors to live righteously in full obedience to his Word, her only rule for faith and life.


To God be the glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all generations , for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3: 21).



Location: Eritrea, Horn of Africa

Head: H.H. Patriarch Antonios - under house arrest

Title: Patriarch of Eritrea

Residence: Asmara, Eritrea

Believers: 4,030,000 (2015,*)

Churches: 1,500

Church’s Age: 1,700 years

Monasteries: 22

Priests: 15,000 

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