The Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church on Wednesday excommunicated four archbishops in the Tigray region of Ethiopia over what the Ethiopian church said is a heretical practice.
The decision came after the Holy Synod held an emergency meeting over the illegal appointment of nine episcopates.
His Grace Abune Isaias – Archbishop of Mekele Diocese, His Grace Abune Mekaryos from Aksum Diocese, His Grace Abune Merja Kristos from Adigrat Diocese, and His Grace Abune Petros from Shire Indaselassie Diocese were excommunicated and stripped of their clerical authority over illegally, as the Ethiopian church says, appointing nine episcopates to serve in the Tigray region and in four other discs in the diaspora.
Also the nine newly appointed episcopates are stripped of their spiritual title and restricted from using church service.
The church’s decision is based on Article 5 of sub-section 138 of the spiritual code of the church.
The Ethiopian church said it is confirmed from reports from Tigray regional media that the four Archbishops ordained nine episcopates and their actions cheated Christians in the country and overseas, and in so doing were indulged in heretical practice.
There were reports that the four archbishops were emboldened by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which started the two years war against the Federal government when attacking the northern command of the Ethiopian Defense Force, to break away from the Ethiopian Church and form a separate ethnic Tigray patriarchate. Some political observers tend to see that as one of the preparations on the part of the TPLF leaders to declare independence from Ethiopia.
When His Holiness Abune Mathias led a delegation in early July 2023 to Mekele with the aim to meet the four Archbishops the latter turned them down. His Holiness and his delegation were even unable to enter the church for prayer.
The four archbishops in Tigray seem to have based their decision on the basis of political, economic, and social experience during the two years war between the TPLF and the Federal government rather than differences over religious doctrine.
The Ethiopian church has been saying that it had been doing its part to avert war before it happened and for the restoration of peace after the war broke out. The church also called for the archbishops in Tigray to meet and share their perceived grievances in person.
This is for the second time that the Ethiopian church faced what appears to be politically motivated moves to divide the church along ethnic lines in less than six months. In January 2023, three archbishops from the Oromo region of Ethiopia attempted to form an ethnic-based patriarchate to be based in the Oromo region of Ethiopia. The action led to bloodshed and dozens of faithful were killed, including by Oromia region security forces, while defending the unity of the church.
Sister Orthodox Churches from Egypt and Russia condemned the move to divide the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church along ethnic lines.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has been calling on the Ethiopian government and Tigray region interim administration to enforce the law and stop the Archbishops in Tigray from what the church said is illegal action.
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