Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, Archbishop of Addis Ababa and president of the Council of the Ethiopian Church, has been named president of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Ethiopia. He was appointed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was received by Pope Francis at the Vatican on January 21, 2019.

Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, a member of the Congregation of the Mission, was ordained a priest on July 4, 1976, at the age of twenty-seven. After his ordination, he asked to be sent as a missionary to the southwestern part of his country: he carried out his pastoral ministry first in Dembidollo and Wallega, between 1976 and 1977, and later in Bonga and Kaffa, until 1979. In June 1979 he was imprisoned for seven months, during a military persecution of the clerics by the communist government of the Ethiopian dictator Menghistu Hailè Mariàm, who killed many thousands of his opponents, imprisoned people for religious reasons and confiscated their properties. After his liberation, in 1981, he decided to complete his studies in Rome, at the Pontifical Gregorian University, where he obtained a doctorate in Sociology. During his stay in the Italian capital he was elected as a delegate to the General Assembly of the Congregation of the Mission.

Working for peace

In 2018, after twenty years of war that claimed thousands of victims, a peace agreement was signed with Eritrea. Now, national unity and reconciliation are the two pillars upon which the Commission will carry out its work. The appointment of the cardinal was announced on February 12, after a meeting of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed with the members of the Commission, chosen among representatives of civil society, associations and the world of media. The prime minister assured the members that their work would be done with complete autonomy and with the greatest freedom.

A well received appointment

The election of Cardinal Souraphiel has been positively welcomed, by both members of the various political entities as well as by the various religious leaders. The Commission was born out of the experiences in South Africa and Rwanda, countries that were ravaged by decades of apartheid and civil strife.