May 22, 2018
(Toronto) – The Ethiopian church, otherwise known as Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church, which is one of the oldest churches on earth has been divided into two patriarchates for over twenty seven years now.
The division has nothing to do with,at the time it happened, with divergence from theological point of view. The schism was rather about politics.
There are different theories about it. What is widely believed is that when Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) ended their guerrilla existence of seventeen years following the collapse of Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam in 1991, they considered the Ethiopian church to be one of the areas useful to consolidate their political power and they felt the need to place a loyal figure at the top of the Ethiopian church.
The then patriarch of the church, Abune Markerios, was compelled to leave the country and ended up in the United States there by paving the way for TPLF leaders, primarily the late Meles Zenawi, to put their own man Abune Paulos as patriarch of the church in 1992. And then some bishops who opposed the intrusion of the rulers on the Ethiopian church and those who believed that no new patriarch could be appointed while an ordained patriarch is alive and capable of carrying out the spiritual functions and administration of the church, as in the traditions and doctrines of the church, decided to follow the church tradition by reorganizing Abune Markerios’ patriarchate in exile. And the church ended up to split into two.
Abune Paulos passed away weeks after news of Meles Zenawi broke in Ethiopia some time in August 2012. And he was later replaced with Abune Mathias who turned out to be another loyalist for TPLF.
For many years now, there have been efforts to reconcile the two patriarchates but without notable success.
Recently, the new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed,stepped in the matter and reportedly encouraged Abune Mathias to resume talks and work on reconciliation with the patriarchate in exile.
Sources seemingly with an insider information from the patriarchate in exile say that there is a progress in the talk and the reunification of the patriarchate could be a reality in the near future.
However, no official statement is issued from both sides yet.
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