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The head of the Catholic Church in Ethiopia, Berhaneyesus Demerew, was barred from leaving the main airport in neighboring Eritrea to attend an engagement.
The cardinal was stranded at the airport in the capital, Asmara, for more than 16 hours over the weekend, according to a church statement.
He had arrived on Saturday but was obliged to return to Ethiopia the next afternoon after fruitless attempts to reach the crowd gathered to welcome him.
The cardinal had been issued with a one-month visa, which Ethiopians can now get on arrival in Eritrea following a 2018 peace deal that ended years of hostility between the two nations.
However, airport officials said that orders from “higher up” meant Cardinal Berhaneyesus could not leave.
He had been due to attend an event marking the 50th anniversary of the construction of Asmara’s Kidane Mehret Cathedral.
The cleric is a highly respected figure in Ethiopia, where most Christians are members of the Orthodox Church and was appointed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to head the national reconciliation commission.
The Eritrean government has not commented on the issue.
Last year, the authorities closed down Catholic-run schools and hospitals after bishops criticized President Isaias Afwerki’s government, calling for political reforms.
The country does not have a functioning constitution and has never held a national election.
The government had said it was imposing old regulations, which stipulate that religious bodies cannot run such institutions.
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