Information about Catholic gospel music

Liturgical rites

The Catholics in the northern part of Ethiopia as well as in Eritrea celebrate Mass according to the Ethiopian (aka Ge’ez) liturgical rite.

In the other areas of Ethiopia, the Western liturgical rite is common.

Historical introduction
(focus on Southern Ethiopia)

The first Ge’ez (classical Ethiopic) book ever printed was based on a manuscript in the Vatican, Psalterium David et cantica aliqua in lingua Chaldea [David’s psalter and some hymns in the Chaldean (!) language, 1513].

In Southern Ethiopia, where most Catholics live, missionaries started their activities about one hundred years ago (Fa. Pascal of Luchon and others).

The Apostolic Vicariates of Soddo (Wolaytta), Awasa and Hossana are the numerically strongest in the country. Several of their centers are located in rural areas (Wassera, etc.). These circumstances were conducive for the creation of vernacular gospel songs.

The first original songs in Hadiyyisa seem to have been written a few years after Vatican II Council (until 1965) by Catechist (then Deacon) Wolde N. from Saddama. The French Cappuchin Priest at the station then was Fa. René. The Apostolic Administrator in Hossana until 1972, Bishop Urbain-Marie Person, opposed clapping and dancing. Antiphonal singing was also not adopted by Catholics in the area.

Generally speaking, in Catholic congregations choirs were (and are) preferred to solo singers.

Further reading

Alberto, Antonios. A Modern and Contemporary History of the Catholic Church in Ethiopia (16th – 20th Centuries). (Ethiopian Review of Cultures 6). Addis Ababa: Capuchin Franciscan Institute of Philosophy and Theology, 2013.

Crummey, Donald. Priests & Politicians: Protestant & Catholic Missions in Orthodox Ethiopia (1830-1868). Reprint. Hollywood, CA: Tsehai Publishers, 2007. [1st edition Oxford: Clarendon Pr., 1972]

Mkenda, Festo (SJ). A Splash of Diamond: The Jesuit Presence in Ethiopia from 1945 to the Present. Rome and Nairobi: Jesuit Historical Institute in Africa, 2023.

O’Mahoney, Kevin. “The Ebullient Phoenix”: A History of the Vicariate of Abyssinia. Vol. 1: 1839-60; vol. 2: 1860-81; vol. 3: 1882-1916. Asmara: Ethiopian Studies Centre, 1982-87.


» See overview of Catholic soloists

» See overview of Catholic choirs

» See overview of Catholic YouTube channels

» View Amharic Catholic hymnals

» Read manuscript with Catholic hymns in Hadiyya

» Visit web page on Catholic liturgy: Ethiopian rite · Western rite


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