January 29, 2023

Controversy in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church intensifies as holy fathers face detention, abduction

City: Addis AbabaNewsCurrent Affairs

The Patriarch pleaded for cautious security measures so as to avoid bloodshed of innocent Christians and disturbance of the peace

Avatar: Abiy Solomon
By Abiy Solomon

Abiy is the Editor-in-Chief of Addis Zeybe. He has intense experience in journalism, visual communication, and online media. Abiy has worked in various editorial positions for The Daily Monitor, The Reporter, Fortune, and BBC Media Action.

Controversy in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church intensifies as holy fathers face detention, abduction
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Credit: EOTC TV (His Holiness Abuna Mathias during a press briefing on Jan 29)

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church disclosed that His Holiness Abuna Estifanos, Archbishop of Jimma Yem Konta Diocese, was detained the whole day by Jimma town Police on Jan 28. 

His Holiness Abuna Estifanos, who went to Jimma town in the Oromia Regional State to attend a holy blessing ceremony of St. Marry Church to be held on Jan 28, was detained by police through the day and was forced to return to Addis Ababa. The police said the order is given by the regional administration, according to the Church’s statement.    

The incidents followed the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Holy Synod’s resolution of excommunicating three Archbishops and 25 clerics for the alleged ordination of episcopates and installation of another Holy Synod that the church condemned as a “violation of the canonical order’. 

It is also reported that Megabe Haddis Aba Tsegaze’ab, one of the clergy who asked for forgiveness among the dissident bishops & archbishops that the church accused of violating the canonical order, has been abducted and taken from the gate of the Office of the Patriarchate the same day. 

The controversy started to broil in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church after the news of the ordination of 26 episcopates and installation of a new Holy Synod by three Archbishops (Aba Sawiros, Aba Eustathius, and Aba Zena) is heard a week ago. The act was revoked by the Church’s Patriarch His Holiness Abuna Mathias as “illegal” and had no recognition from the Holy Synod. 

The dissident clergy justified their ordination of the episcopates saying their decision is made in order to sustainably continue the service of the church in Oromia and other regions and addressing the need to appoint spiritual leaders who know and respect the culture, tradition, history, and lifestyle of the people whom they serve. 

They called the holy synod they formed “A holy Synod of Oromia, the South, and nations and nationalities, under the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church”.

The act was condemned by a number of the church’s dioceses and other related religious entities including the Holy Synod of Egypt Orthodox Church.

The dissident clergy however objected to the resolution passed on to them by the Holy Synod which excommunicated them from the church and with a ban of having any religious service in life or death. Subsequent to the Holy Synod’s decision, they announced in a statement that they have also in turn excommunicated 12 Archbishops of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Holy Synod. Their decision entails revoking the Archbishops of their title and role as well as addressing them in their secular names afterward. 

The dissident collective stated that they will be dispatching the episcopates they ordained to assigned Archdioceses. 

Some videos that had been circulating on social media platforms show the warm welcome the bishops of the dissident clergy claimed to receive from the church congregation, especially in the Wollega area of the Oromia Regional State. 

In a press statement His Holiness Abuna Mathias, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church gave today, he requested the church’s canonical orders be respected while underscoring the need for the strict execution of law and order. 

“We hereby plead in the name of God for cautious security measures so as to avoid bloodshed of innocent Christians and disturbance of peace,” he said.