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1. A brief historical background of AVH


The Apostolic Vicariate of Harar (AVH) was created by the Apostolic Constitution “Quo in Aethiopia” on the 25th of March 1937, when the Holy See decided to restructure the former famous vicariate of Oromos (at that time known as the Apostolic Vicariate of Gallas) dividing into three ecclesiastical territorial administration, namely Apostolic Vicariate of Harar, Prefecture Apostolic of Kaffa and Prefecture Apostolic of Neghelli; while the territory of Showa, which was formerly part of the Vicariate of Oromos, was included to the division of the Apostolic Vicariate of Abysina (Apostolic Vicaraite of Addis Ababa, Prefecture Apostolic of Dessié, Prefecture Apostolic of Gondar,  Prefecture Apostolic of Tigrai). That means, the historical background of the AVH is linked to the 1846-1875 tumultuous eposid of Gulielmo Massaja, who was appointed as the Bishop of the Vicariate of Oromos in April 1846 and forced to leave his mission in 1875 due to religious, political and cultural factors.


Cardinal Massaja had resigned and had been succeeded by coadjutor, Mgr. Taurin Cahagne. Hereafter, going through Zeila and Berbera, he arrived in Harar in the afternoon of the 22nd of April 1881. From then, the history of the Vicariate started to evolve. Basically, the AVH comprises East and West Harargie zones and Fantale and Boset weredas of East Shewa in Oromiya Region; Harari Region; Dire Dawa Provisional Administration; Somali Region with exception of Afder and Liben zones; Amibara & Awash wereda of Affar Region. The territory of the vicariate comprises about 262,000 km2, which is almost one third of the whole country of Ethiopia. The number of Christians in the region is very few concentrate mainly in the North-Western part of the region. The development of the Vicariate had not been so easy, for the reason that it faced lot of challenges throughout its history. It is possible to see the history of the Vicariate under four major phases.


1.1. The first phase (1881 – 1938):   laying the solid foundation and outstanding achievements


Mgr. Taurin did not delay in launching his apostolate among the Oromos Itu in the region of Hararghe, which was by then under Egyptian rule. Soon, all mission stations around Harar came into existence. For instance, Bobassa in 1883, Annias and Awale in 1884 and Bio Midaidu and Ama in 1885. After the battle of Chelenko on the 7th of January 1887, which was brought about the conquest of Harar by the Ethiopian troops of Menelik, Mgr. Taurin immediately opened a number of stations on the road leading into Showa: Lagarba, Bilailu and Giulul in 1889, Lafto Kararnille in 1890, Surre in 1892 and Minne in 1897. Because of the amount of work those foundations required, the Franciscan Sisters of Calais were invited in 1897. Other achievements of significant importance in the time of Mgr. Taurin included the Minor Seminary at Lefto and the Major Seminary at Harar.


During the long tenure of Mgr. Jarosseau (1900-1938), the mission of the Apostolic Vicariate of the Oromos reached its greatest heights. In Hararghe, still more stations were opened: Chaffe and Jilbo in 1907, Chiro (Aseble Teferi) and Dire Dawa in 1908, Urso in 1910, Leftto Goba in 1912, Jijiga in 1918, Sofi in 1923, and Midagdu in 1927. In Harar, during Mgr. Jarosseau's time, two institutions of importance came into existence. The St. Anthony leprosarium was built in 1901 on a piece of land given by Ras Mekonnen. The St. Lazare Printing Press was set up in 1908 to financially support the works of the Vicariate. In 1915, Mgr. Jarosseau began to implement a well-defined plan for the implantation of the local Church. He founded in Harar the institute of the Third Order of Sisters of Mary Immaculate.


1.2. The second phase (1938 – 1942):  A brief moment of fervent pastoral attempts


In the wake of the Italian occupation, when the French Capuchin missionaries and Mgr. Jarosseau had to leave Ethiopia (1936-38), the Apostolic Vicariate of the Oromos had reached its climax. From the very beginning, the Italian Capuchins, with the leadership of Mgr. Leone Ossola, have attempted to do a lot in the areas of pastoral activities. The first move that they made was to renew the existing centers and build new ones. One of the newly built centers was the actual technical school known as Medhaniealem School, which is owned by the government. Yet, the presence of the Italian Capuchin missionaries didn’t last longer and ended up in 1942.


1.3. The third phase (1942 – 1993): transference of the cathedral and pastoral latency


In December 1942, the Italian missionaries were expelled with all Italian citizens. The Holy Ghost fathers, led by Fr. Kevin Devinash, assigned to govern the Vicariate for a short period of time, yet knowing the strong connection of the local communities and priests with the Capuchin fathers, Fr. Kevin suggested that it is better to re-invite the Capuchin missionaries. Soon in 1952, the French Capuchins, from the province of Paris, arrived to the Vicariate Apostolic of Harar. However, due to the shortage of personnel, the newly arrived missionaries took the responsibility of South Eastern part of the country, in addition to the territory of Apostolic Vicariate of Harar. To have an access to all the territory, Mgr. Urben Person has shifted his residence from Harar to Nazareth. In fact, the shift of the Cathedra has caused a certain pastoral latency in the Vicariate, even though in the contrary, it fevered a lot on the development of other Vicariates, like Sodo-Hosana, Awassa, Nekemite and Meki.


1.4. The fourth phase (From 1993- to date): restoration of the Cathedral and the various activities on the ground


When Mgr. Urben Person retarded in 1982, Fr. Georges Peron, who was appointed in 1987 as the Bishop of Dijobuti, has replaced him as an administrator of the Vicariate. In 1987 when Fr. Georges moved to Dijibuti, Fr. Weldetensae Ghebreghiorghis has been appointed as the administrator of the Vicariate and ordained as the bishop of the Vicariate in 1993, which marked the historical event of the restoration of the cathedra. Since then, six major activities have gone as pointed out below:

  1. Enabling the cathedra to be returned from Nazreth to its former place Harar;

  2. Founding the secretariat of the Vicariate, which coordinates the pastoral, social and other activities, with the name of Hararghie Catholic Secretariat (HCS), having its head quarter in Dire Dawa;

  3. Establishing a formation centers in Asebe Teferi for the training of new candidates to a priesthood as well as catechists who could help the priests in various pastoral activities;

  4. Renewing and building Churches and Chapels;

  5. Establishing new centers where there were no presence of the Catholic Church;

  6. Advancing the social and developmental services.




Thus far, eight persons have administered the Vicariate from 1881 onward. These are:

  1. Mgr. Taurin Cahagne, a French nationality (1881 – 1900) ,

  2. Mgr. Andrea Jarosseau, a French nationality (1900 – 1938)

  3. Mgr. Leone Ossola, an Italian nationality (1938– 1943)

  4. Rev. Fr. Kevin Devenish, a British nationality (1943-1947)

  5. Mgr. Urbain Person, a French nationality (1952-1982)

  6. Mgr. Georges Peron a French nationality (1982-1987)

  7. Mgr. Weldetensae Ghebreghiorghis, an Eritrean nationality (1987 — 2016).

  8. Mgr. Angelo Pagano, an Italian nationality (2016— ).


3. A glimpse of information about the current sociopastoral centers


3.1. Secretariat


The Vicariate has its secretariat named as Hararghie Catholic Secretariat (HCS). It was set up in 1987 and has three organizations. Namely:

  1. ECC- SDCOH: Ethiopian Catholic Church Social and Development Commission Branch Office of Harar.

  2. ECC-PACOH: Ethiopian Catholic Church Pastoral Activities Coordinating Office of Harar.

  3. HCS-EDA: Harar Catholic Secretariat Economic Development Agency.


3.2. Pastoral stations


The Vicariate has all together thirteen stations that are known by the title of a parish and nineteen chapels, one mission station and one Shrine. 

  1. Parishes: Asebe Teferi (1908), Debiti, Dire Dawa (1908), Chaffe (1907), Jilbo (1973), Ejafara, Harar (1881),  Surre (1892), Jijiga (1918),  Lafto Goba (1912), Lafto Karamille (1890),  Laga Arba (1889),  Metahara, Midagdu (1927).

  2. Chapels: Harar (St. Anthony), Sabure,  Haremaya. Assebot, Jello, Bisdimo, Jarra, Kurkura, Karafenisa, Ejersahara, Hadeteka, Berieti, Bilalu, Kirara, Nuraera, Melkawerer, Melkasedi, Araghie, Dobba.

  3. Shrine in Awalle (1884).

  4. Mission station: Godie (2010).

  5. Formation center: major seminary in Addis Ababa, minor seminary and catechetical center in Assebe Teferi.


3.3. Social centers


The Vicariate has development & humanitarian centers, educational centers and health centers coordinated by the three organizations founded under the secretariat.

  1. Development and humanitarian support centers: Dire Dawa, Kersa, Dolu, Langie, Water, Deder, Migna, Soqa, Karamekela, Harawacha, Jaja, Obbi, Harewo, Karamile, Boreda, Chinaksen, Chiro/ Asebe teferi, Midagdu, Kemona, Bordede, Mieso, Ejaneni, Adada, Awale, Kalicha, Elhamer, Belewa, Mudhi aneno, Legedini, Melka kero,  Debeley, Gerbe aneno, Chirimiti, Jeldesa, Gende rigie, Aseliso, Wahil, Halo busa, Lege oda,  gununfeta, Jelo belina, Jigjiga, Afdem, Mullu, Tuluguled, Harorais, Shebelle, Bombas, Kebribeyah,

  2. Educational centers: Abune Andreas school of Harar, Bethlehem School of Harar, St. Joseph school of Jigjiga, Bisrate Gebriel school of Dire Dawa, Abune Andreas school of Dire Dawa, Notrodame school of Dire Dawa, St. Joseph school of Kariamile, St. Mark school of Chiafie, St. Mary school of Assebe Teferi, St. Mary school of Midagdu, St. Peter and Paul Kinder garden of Metehara, Kinder garden of Sabure, Kinder garden of Melkawere.

  3. Health centers: St. Anthony clinic of Harar, St. Mary clinic of Assebe Teferi, St. Mary clinic of Midagdu, St. Peter and poul clinic or Metehara.

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