Free Catholic Bishop detained by Eritrean authorities for 75 days in prison

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) – Eritrean authorities have released Catholic Bishop Fikremariam Hagos Tsalim after 75 days in prison.

Bishop Tsalim, the 52-year-old bishop of Segheneity, an eparchy in southern Eritrea, spent Christmas in prison.

A video emerged on December 28 showing the greeting of priests and religious women at a church in Asmara, the Eritrean capital. Archbishop Menghesteab Tesfamariam of Asmara was present at the meeting.

Authorities released Father Mihreteab Stefanos, a priest from the eparchy who was detained with the bishop in Adi Abeto prison, according to reports.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia and Eritrea did not immediately comment on the release. However, Catholic priests have confirmed, saying in posts on Twitter, that Father Tsalim is free. Earlier, there were reports that the Vatican had accelerated diplomatic efforts to obtain his release.

“I can confirm that he is free, but I have no more details. My other concern is that we are dealing with a very dangerous situation,” said a Catholic priest from the nearby Ethiopian region of Tigray; he asked to remain anonymous due to security concerns.

On Twitter, a post by Araya Yodit was accompanied by a photo showing the bishop meeting with religious women.

“Bishop Fikremariam Hagos is free. Bishop and Father Mihreteab are free,” the letter said.

Security officials arrested Bishop Tsalim Oct.15 at Asmara International Airport when he returned from a trip to Europe.

It has been stable under the government of Eritrean President Isaiah Afwerki, who has been in office since 1993. Eritrea, a nation in the Horn of Africa, gained its independence from Ethiopia in connection with the 1991. No constitution or national elections.

Catholics in Eritrea are less than 5% of the population of 6 million people.

The arrest of the bishop has led governments around the world to call for his release. On February 9, Patriarch Abune Antonios, 94, of the Eritrean Orthodox Church died in prison. He was imprisoned for 16 years after defying orders to expel thousands of church members.

Afwerki closed most of the Christian churches two years ago today only Catholic, Orthodox and Lutheran churches and Sunni Muslim churches have the legal authority to do so, but they face many limitations.

Although the government did not give reasons for the arrest, observers said they believed Bishop Tsalim was detained for criticizing youth incitement for war in the neighboring Tigray region. Ethiopia. The war ended with the negotiation of a peace treaty. He was also shown questioning the government’s seizure of schools and clinics.