The Eritrean Catholic Archeparchy of Asmara, officially the Archeparchy of Asmara (Latin: Archieparchia Asmarensis) is the Metropolitan see of the Eritrean Catholic Church, officially the Metropolitan Church of Asmara (Latin: Metropolitana Ecclesia Asmarensis), a sui iuris Eastern Catholic Church whose territory corresponds to that of the State of Eritrea in the Horn of Africa.
As head of an autonomous particular Church, the Metropolitan Archeparch, currently Menghesteab Tesfamariam, is mentioned by name, after the Pope, in the liturgies celebrated within the suffragan eparchies of Barentu, Keren and Segheneyti.
The Eritrean Catholic Church, like the Ethiopian Catholic Church, from which it was separated in 2015, uses in its liturgy the Ethiopic variant of the Alexandrian Rite in the Ge'ez language. It is the Eastern Catholic counterpart of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, which was granted autocephaly in 1993 and is headed by a Patriarch, who also is based in the Eritrean capital.
The cathedral of the Archeparchy is that of Kidane Mehret in Asmara, the capital city of Eritrea. In Asmara there is also a church that was formerly the cathedral (in a loose sense) of the now suppressed Apostolic Vicariate of Eritrea.
As per 2014, the Archeparchy pastorally served 30,108 Eastern Catholics (0.9% of 3,170,000 total) on 23,886 km² in 58 parishes and 2 missions with 328 priests (20 diocesan, 308 religious), 2 deacons, 1,314 lay religious (622 brothers, 692 sisters) and 206 seminarians.
The suffragan eparchies of the Archeparchy were once part of the then Eparchy of Asmara:Eritrean Catholic Eparchy of Barentu (1995)
Eritrean Catholic Eparchy of Keren (1995)
Eritrean Catholic Eparchy of Segheneyti (2012)
In 1839 Saint Giustino de Jacobis, an Italian Vincentian priest, arrived in the area that is now Eritrea and northern Ethiopia. He chose to use in the local liturgy in Ge'ez, rather than the Roman Rite in Latin. Attracted by his learning and sanctity, many local clergy and laity entered into communion with the Catholic Church. They established an Ethiopic-Rite Catholic community under the care of the Apostolic Vicariate of Abyssinia, which had its headquarters at Keren and was under the care of the Vincentian Fathers.
After Italy took possession of Eritrea and declared it an Italian colony, the Holy See, in view of the changed situation, set up on 19 September 1894 a separate Apostolic Prefecture of Eritrea, which was entrusted to Italian Capuchins. In the following year, the governor of the colony expelled the remaining Vincentian priests, who were French, on the unfounded suspicion of having encouraged armed resistance.
In 1911 the Apostolic Prefecture was promoted to the rank of Apostolic Vicariate, headed therefore by a titular bishop, and the headquarters were moved from Keren to Asmara.
With the arrival of Italian immigrants, the Capuchins promoted the Roman Rite. Unrest among the Eritrean clergy led to the sending in 1927 of the future cardinal Alexis Lépicier as Apostolic Visitor to Eritrea. As a result of his report, Father Kidanè-Maryam Cassà was appointed at first Pro-Apostolic Vicar for the Ethiopic-Rite Catholics and then, on 4 July 1930, bishop in charge of an independent Ordinariate of Eritrea. His official title was Ordinary for Ethiopic-Rite indigenous Catholics of Eritrea ((Latin: Ordinarius pro catholicis indigenis Erythraeae aethiopici ritus). Pope Pius XII elevated this ordinariate as the Apostolic Exarchate of Asmara on 31 October 1951. On 20 February 1961, Blessed John XXIII elevated it to an eparchy.
The eparchy lost territory on 21 December 1995, when the Eparchies of Barentu and Keren were established, and again in 2012, when the Eparchy of Segheneyti was established.
In January 2015, Pope Francis erected the metropolitan sui iuris Eritrean Catholic Church, elevating the Eparchy of Asmara to the dignity of Archeparchy and making the three daughter eparchies its suffragans.
Ordinariate for Ethiopic-Rite indigenous Catholics of Eritrea (instituted 4 July 1930)Kidanè-Maryam Cassà (4 July 1930 – 24 February 1951), Titular Bishop of Thibaris (1930.07.04 – death 1951.09.01)
Ghebre Jesus Jacob, Titular Bishop of Erythrum (1951.02.24 – death 1970.01.22) and Apostolic Administrator for Ethiopic-Rite faithful in Eritrea (24 February 1951 – 21 October 1951), and see below
Apostolic Exarchate of Asmara (instituted 21 October 1951)Ghebre Jesus Jacob, Titular Bishop of Erythrum (1958.02.24 – death 1970.01.22) and Apostolic Administrator for Ethiopic-Rite faithful in Eritrea (1951.10.21 – ?), Ordaining bishop for the Ethiopic Rite in Rome (? – death 1970.01.22)
Asrate Mariam Yemmeru, Titular Bishop of Urima and Acting Apostolic Exarch of Asmara (3 February 1958 - 20 February 1961), and see below
Eparchy of Asmara (instituted 20 February 1961)Asrate Mariam Yemmeru Titular Bishop of Urima and Acting Eparch of Asmara (1961.02.20 – 1961.04.09); Metropolitan of Addis Ababa (1961.04.09 – retired 1977.02.24), died 1990.08.10
François Abraha (9 April 1961 - retired 17 July 1984), died 2000.03.26
Zekarias Yohannes Titular Bishop of Barca and Auxiliary Bishop of Asmara (1981.01.29 – 1984.07.17); Eparch of Asmara (17 July 1984 - retired 25 June 2001); died 2016.12.01
Menghesteab Tesfamariam, Comboni Missionaries (M.C.C.I.) (25 June 2001– 19 January 2015), and see below
Metropolitan Archeparchy of Asmara (instituted 19 January 2015)Menghesteab Tesfamariam, M.C.C.I. (19 January 2015 – ...)