Ethiopian priests are often served food in fields outside female monasteries as there are many places of worship that exclude both genders in the country, according to an Ethiopian priest based in Ireland.
Archmandrite Abba Yohannes Kebede Amsalu, who is part of the Orthodox Church, responded to the furore over the weekend criticising Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for entering a monastery in which women are denied entrance.
Public criticism came after Mr Varadkar entered the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum, leaving female members of his party waiting outside during his trip to Ethiopia.
The church is believed to be the oldest on the African continent and its original construction dates back to the 4th Century. It is said to contain the Ark of the Covenant.
“In some of our monasteries women are not allowed, on the other hand we have monasteries for women and man is not allowed, just for Church purpose. People did not see the balance, I was wondering why they are criticising one side. We have a lot of them,” he said.
Even clergy are only invited into some churches to celebrate Mass, to say a prayer and give blessings, he added.
Abba Yohannes said: “We are not allowed to stay one night in the monastery, we go only to celebrate Mass, and then back to our monastery, where men can live. So we have separate monasteries, it’s not a big thing.”
Asked whether the rule denying women entrance will ever change, he said: “It is not a question in our culture, even women don’t ask that, they have a great respect for it. In religion you have to respect the rule of the Church and canon law.”