"I am saddened by the violence against Christians of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. I express my sympathy to this church and its patriarch, dear brother Abune Mathias, and ask you to pray for all the victims of violence in that land," the pontiff said in a traditional Sunday sermon at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.
Protests in Ethiopia began last week after political activist Jawar Mohammed accused security forces of trying to conspire an attack against him at his home – a claim that police officials denied.
Mohammed, who represents the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, Oromo, claimed that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, also an Oromo, acted like a dictator while implementing major institutional reforms and policies since April 2018. Protests quickly turned into ethnic and sectarian violence.
According to media, the violence has left at least 78 people killed and over 400 others arrested.
Over 60 percent of the 113-million Ethiopian population are Christians.