The Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church convened urgently to discuss recent reports of the installation of a new Holy Synod and the ordination of 26 bishops in the town of Woliso by a group of clerics.
The overseer of Mskayehzunan Medhanealem Monastery and the Archbishop of the Western Shewa Eparchy, Abuna Sawiros, ordained 26 episcopates to various church posts.
Following Abuna Sawiros' action, the Office of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Holy Synod revoked it as "illegal" and in violation of the church's canonical orders.
“In order to sustainably continue the service of the church in Oromia and other regions, it has been found necessary to appoint spiritual leaders who know and respect the culture, tradition, history, religious canon, and lifestyle of the people,” said Abuna Sawiros during the event which he called “historical”.
The statement issued by the clerics said operational gaps which are believed to be at the root of current problems of the Holy Church in the past 60 years have forced them to reach this decision.
“Appointing spiritual leaders from one same place instead of distributing appointment of clergy from diverse places and cultures of the country which caused the laity to leave the religion and the church, crushing Oromia only as a single diocese, not being able to serve the believers closely due to language and cultural gaps” were mentioned by Abuna Sawiros to be among the major causes for the installation of the new holy synod.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church's Holy Synod announced that the “illegal ordination of Bishops” was carried out without its recognition.
Following the incident, Abuna Mathias, Patriarch and Catholicos of Ethiopia, Archbishop of Axum, and Ichege of the See of Saint Taklehaimanot, urgently called for the member bishops of the Holy Synod in the country and abroad to come and convene in Addis Ababa, requested the government to undertake its legal responsibility considering the damage that would be inflicted by the incident to the country and called on the church’s congregation to guard and defend the Church more than ever.
The allegedly illegal ordination of episcopates faced opposition from multiple local and abroad dioceses including the Diocese of Stockholm, the Diocese of the UK, and Ireland in addition to the Holy Synod of Egypt Orthodox Church.
His Holiness Abune Abraham, General Manager of the Office of Patriarchate and Archbishop of Bahir Dar Diocese underscored that the government should be careful not to shriek its responsibility of ensuring peace and security.
“Unfortunately, police officers who were guarding the Holy Synod office until Jan 23 were removed for unspecified reasons,” he said.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has confirmed to Addis Zeybe that the police forces that were guarding the office of the Holy Synod had been removed since the announcement day of the claimed new synod, saying “the reason behind is unknown”.
But on the next day, the 25th of January, the Holy Synod office confirmed that Six police officers from Addis Ababa city police were assigned to guard the office of the holy synod.
“Since the government is responsible for protecting the Holy Church, whose legal status is recognized, we call on the government to play its part in defending the sovereignty of the church,” the General Manager of the Office of Patriarchate added.
On January 24 the Council of the Administration of the Archdiocese decided to suspend the salaries of those who have acted against the church or the nominees and so-called nominees and also closing of the offices and lodging houses used in the institutions which harbored them as necessary.
Following this decision, the living houses of the three clergies in Addis Ababa who led the announcement of the new synod including Aba Sawiros’ were suspended.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church Holy Synod, which commenced its urgent assembly yesterday night, declared fasting and prayer for three consecutive days from today. The plenary assembly of the Holy Synod met today at 8:30 am and is expected to pass a decision on the appointment of the episcopates that it said is illegal and disregarded the canonical orders of the church.
In the meanwhile, Aba Tsegazeabe Adugna, one of the newly sworn episcopates asked for forgiveness officially through streamed video from the Holy Synod office on the night of the urgent assembly.
There were previous several attempts of breaching the canonical orders of the church and hierarchy to establish regional Holy Synods, particularly from the Oromia and Tigray regions.
A dispute arose on Oct 2020 due to the request that the Archdiocese of Oromia should be established at the regional level led by Liqe A’elaf Kesis Belay Mekonnen, who is currently Deputy General Manager of the Archdiocese Office.
In 2022, the bishops and priests of Tigray, who are members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, announced that they have established a new church by severing their administrative relationship with the archdiocese.