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Although Christianity in Ethiopia dates back to the fourth century, Ethiopia’s first native bishops were elected only in 1929. Until then, Ethiopia’s bishops were ethnic Egyptians, who were appointed by the Coptic Orthodox patriarch. In 1951, an ethnic Ethiopian was elected metropolitan and in 1959, the Coptic Orthodox patriarch elevated the Ethiopian Orthodox metropolitan as patriarch. Abuna Paulos, the current patriarch, guides this church, which makes up more than half of Ethiopia’s population.

Modern divisions within some of the ancient Eastern churches may again increase the number of patriarchs. The newly autocephalous Orthodox Church in Eritrea, once a part of the Ethiopian Orthodox patriarchate, may be raised to a patriarchal church. In Ukraine the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church has erected its own patriarchate.

The patriarchs, most of whom remain unknown to many Western Christians, are a significant part of the rich patrimony of the church.

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Tags: Christianity Eastern Christianity Eastern Churches Patriarchs