The head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abune Paulos, has died aged 76, an official has told the BBC.
The news was confirmed by Mulugeta Aserate Kassa, an adviser at the Ethiopian embassy in London.
He suffered a heart attack, according to opposition website Ethiopian Review.
No funeral details have been released, but Abune Paulos is expected to receive a state funeral. About half of Ethiopia’s population are estimated to be Orthodox Christians.
Mr Mulugeta said the patriarch was “very healthy” on Wednesday, when he led a service in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
He later fell ill and was rushed to hospital, Mr Mulugeta said.
The patriarch died early on Thursday morning, he added.
Mr Mulugeta said he could not confirm the cause of death, but the patriarch had suffered from hypertension and diabetes.
Abune Paulos was chosen to lead the church in 1992 – a year after the overthrow of the communist government of Mengistu Haile Mariam.
He was exiled in the US during Mengistu’s rule.
His critics accused him of being close to current Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who is also ill.
Abune Paulos was the first person from the Tigray ethnic group – one of the largest in Ethiopia – to head the country’s Orthodox Church, Mr Mulugeta said.