Since 1959, when Cyril VI, Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, gave the church autonomy, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has been led by an Ethiopian Patriarch-Catholicos of Eritrea with the additional title of Abuna.
The Abuna’s official titles are Ichege of the See of Saint Taklahaimanot, Catholicos, Archbishop of Axum, and Patriarch of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is now led by Mathias, who took up the position on February 28, 2013. People wash their hands and faces before praying so that they might be pure before God and give God their best. To symbolize that one is worshipping before a holy God, shoes are likewise removed. Ethiopian Orthodox worshipers take off their shoes before entering a church temple because Moses was told to do so when he stood on holy ground to watch the burning bush. Even though the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church celebrates both the Lord’s Day and the seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday), the Resurrection of Christ makes Sunday more important. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church requires male circumcision, and it is virtually always carried out there among Orthodox men. As a sign of initiation, Ethiopian Orthodox parents circumcise their sons “anywhere from the first week of life to the first few years.” The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has ritual cleansing days. It recommends different ways to wash your hands and has traditionally followed rituals similar to Jewish netilat yadayim, such as washing your hands after using the toilet, shower, or bathroom, before you pray, and after you eat. Ritually unclean people are permitted to enter the church but not to enter; instead, they stand near the door and pray while the liturgy is taking place.