Ethiopia's Orthodox Church elected Abune Mathias as its new leader on 28 February, six months after the death of the previous patriarch Abune Paulos who led the church from 1992.
Tens of thousands are expected to attend his enthronement ceremony on 3 March at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa, when Abune Mathias becomes the sixth patriarch of the influential body which numbers 40 million Orthodox Christian members – more than half the nation's population.
Abune Mathias was elected by two thirds of votes cast by the electoral college which represents various sections of the church. He has been serving as archbishop of the church in Jerusalem and returns to live in Ethiopia after having lived abroad for more than 30 years, mainly in Europe and North America. He fled Ethiopia following the military coup led by Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1974.
Officially known as the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the influential body has been independent of Egypt's Coptic Christian Church since 1959, and is the only pre-colonial Orthodox church in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Ethiopian patriarchs hold the title of Abune, which means “father” in Amharic.