Addis Abeba – The new “Holy Synod of Oromia and Nations and Nationalities”, which formed by the three breakaway Archbishops and their 25 appointee episcopate, who were excommunicated by the principal Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC), said its nominee episcopate dispatched to western Oromia received “overwhelming” public support and reception upon arrival.
According to the spokesperson of the breakaway synod, Hailemichael Tadesse, two nominee episcopate assigned to West Wollega and Kellem Wollega dioceses were dispatched over the weekend and have received “overwhelming” public welcome from the faithful both in their respective destinations and on their routes.
Abune Gabriel and Abune Eyasu, who were dispatched to West Wollega and Kellem Wollega dioceses, were received in Gimbi and Dembi Dollo cities, respectively.
“The reception wasn’t only at the destinations but through out several cities and small towns on their routes where they [the bishops] visited churches, preached the gospel, and shared words of encouragement with believers,” Hailemichael told Addis Standard.
“The public reception was overwhelming and far beyond our expectations. The accusation by members of the holy synod when they excommunicate the three archbishops and the 25 episcopate that the archbishops doesn’t have public support and that they are working in pursuit of personal interests such as power and money is proved wrong by the public who came out in overwhelming numbers to welcome the bishops,” he said.
“It is a testament that the public has huge interest in getting religious services in its languages, it is also an indication that we should do more, and we shouldn’t back down” he added.
Hailemichael said dispatching the episcopate to dioceses in and outside Oromia region will continue over the coming days and weeks, adding that Abune Bersuma bishop for East Wollega diocese will travel to Nekemte City on Wednesday.
On Sunday 29 January, in a statement read by his Holiness Abune Mathias I, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC), the principal holy Synod urged the government and the wider population on the need to respect the dogma and canon of the “historic Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church” and plead for caution and protection by security forces to avoid “the blood of innocent Christians” from being spilled.
The three breakaway Archbishops and their 25 appointee episcopate who are now being dispatched were altogether excommunicated by the emergency plenary session of the Holy Synod of the EOTC on 26 January, being accused of involving in “illegal anointment” without the knowledge of the church.
On Saturday 28 January the three archbishops have excommunicated 12 Archbishops of EOTC Holy Synod members in a counter measure and announced preparations to send the 25 appointee episcopate to their assigned dioceses.
The event that led to what has now potentially become a split of the EOTC happened at the Haro Beale Wold Church in Woliso city of the South-West Shoa zone in Oromia Regional State, on 22 January, where His Holiness Abune Sawiros (PhD), Archbishop of South West Shoa Diocese, together with two other Archbishops, appointed 26 bishops: 17 bishops for dioceses located in the Oromia region, and nine bishops for dioceses outside Oromia without the involvement of the Holy Synod, creating widespread shock and anger among many of the church’s followers.
His Holiness Abune Sawiros explained the decision to appoint the 26 episcopate was made to resolve long lasting problems within the church for failing to serve believers in their native languages and detached of their culture, which resulted in loss of millions of believers over the past years particularly in Oromia and Southern region.
However, the appointment was called “illegal” by his Holiness Abune Mathias I, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC) who convened an emergency meeting to deal with the event he described as “a great event that has targeted the church”. AS