The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church this past Sunday ordained nine new bishops – of which at least seven of them are assigned to serve in dioceses across the Oromo region of Ethiopia.
The appointment met with resistance from religious scholars in the church and devout followers of the church. There was also a debate within the Holy Synod, according to the head of the administration in the Patriarchate at Arat Kilo, His Grace Abune Abraham, who spoke about the decision to ordain the new episcopates.
He made it clear that the appointments and ordinations are not in line with the canons of the Ethiopian Church tradition. From what he said, it was rather a matter of expediency ( a political one due to government policy).
It was noted that Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed made a recommendation for the Ethiopian Church Holy Synod to ordain new bishops for the Oromo region of Ethiopia.
Prime Minister Abiy painted himself as a “peace broker” when three Archbishops, members of the Holy Synod, broke away from it with the aim to establish the ethnic Oromo patriarchate and appointed dozens of Bishops after clandestinely working on the project with backing from radical ethnic Oromo nationalists some of whom are said to be in senior government positions.
Shimeles Abdissa, head of the administration in the Oromo region, was rumored to be one of them at the time. When groups organized by the renegade group and the political forces behind them took over churches by force in the Oromia region and broke into churches, they were supported by the security forces. Dozens of followers of the Ethiopian church were killed when attempting to protect the church in places like Shashemene. There were reports at the time that many were killed by gunshot fired by government security forces.
When the Ethiopian Church threatened to stage a nationwide peaceful protest against what looked like government support to the renegade group, Abiy Ahmed called three members of the Holy Synod and the renegade bishops to Arak Kilo palace in ; and his action was projected as a “mediation.” effort.
The process gave Abiy Ahmed and radical ethnic Oromo politicians to impose the appointment of seven new bishops to dioceses across the Oromia region. In the process the church canon was violated.
In a similar development, another renegade group in the Tigray region this week conducted “election” of new episcopates. It announced that it has selected five to serve in the region (And it seems that they are thinking of Tigray rather as an independent state) and five will serve in the diaspora.
The group in Tigray turned down a call for a meeting with His Holiness Abune Mathias (who is himself from the Tigray region of Ethiopia) when the latter led a delegation last week.
The Ethiopian Church has condemned the move to ordain Bishops in Tigray and has called on the interim government in the region and the Federal government to enforce law and protect the church.
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