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News: Orthodox Church anoints nine episcopates for Oromia, southern dioceses in bid to quell threat of schism

The nine espiscopates, of whom three were anointed by the Holy Synod yesterday are from the 25 episcopates who were unilaterally anointed by the three Archbishops on 22 January. Photo: EOTC TV

Addis Abeba – As part of efforts to respond to a schism that emerged in January this year and threatened to split the ancient Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church (EOTC), the Holy Synod of the Church has on 16 July held a ceremony of anointing nine episcopates who will be assigned to lead various dioceses in Oromia regional state, and various dioceses in SNNP and Southwest Ethiopia Peoples Regional States. The ceremony was led by His Holiness Abune Mathias I, Patriarch of the EOTC.

Sunday’s anointment of the nine episcopates came as a result of an agreement reached between EOTC’s Holy Synod and a group of breakaway archbishops in Oromia regional state to resolve their differences, ending a month-long schism that threatened the unity of the church through “constructive discussion” and according to “the canon of the church.”

It is recalled that on 22 January this year in an unprecedented event held at the Haro Beale Wold Church in Woliso city of the South-West Shoa zone in Oromia Regional State, His Holiness Abune Sawiros (PhD), the then Archbishop of South West Shoa Diocese, together with Abune Eostatheos and Abune Zena Markos, appointed 26 bishops: 17 bishops for dioceses located in the Oromia region, and nine bishops for dioceses outside Oromia notably in SNNP and Southwest Ethiopia regions, without the involvement of the Holy Synod.

In response, the Holy Synod of the EOTC in Addis Abeba excommunicated the three Archbishops and the 25 episcopates unilaterally appointed by the Archbishops accusing them of involving in “illegal anointment” without the knowledge of the church. The event had created widespread shock and anger among the church’s followers and unleashed clashes between followers of the Church and the local police in West Arsi zone, Shashemene city of the Oromia Region that claimed the lives worshipers.

The events have since been calmed due in large part to the agreement, which also sought the three archbishops, Abune Sawiros, Abune Eostatheos and Abune Zena Markos, to return to their former dioceses and titles, and the 25 episcopates ordained by them to return to their former ranks, and those who would meet the church’s laws and regulations to be reappointed by the Holy Synod.

His Holiness Abune Mathias I, Patriarch of the EOTC presided over the anointment of the nine episcopates on Sunday. Photo: EOTC TV

Three of the nine espiscopates anointed by the Holy Synod yesterday are from the 25 episcopates who were unilaterally anointed by the three Archbishops on 22 January. Accordingly: Archbishop Hailemariam Getachew, who was appointed as episcopate of Western Hararghe Diocese in Oromia by the three Archbishops, was reappointed yesterday by the Synod as His Holiness Abune Bartholomew and will lead the Dire Dawa Diocese; Archbishop Estifanos Gebre who was appointed to be assistant episcopate of Bale zone, Oromia region, by the three Archbishops, was reappointed as His Holiness Abune Daniel by the Synod in charge of West Wollega dioceses; similarly, Archbishop Amde Michael Haile who was appointed to be the episcopate in Arsi zone, Oromia, by the three Archbishops, was reappointed as as His Holiness Abune Elsa’e in charge of the East Wollega diocese.

Speaking at the ceremony yesterday, His Holiness Abune Mathias I, Patriarch of the EOTC, used the opportunity to critique trends of “self-appointment, which appears in unexpected and unusual situations with in the church” and warned that it “must be curbed.”

The Patriarch once again cautioned that any problem within the church “should be resolved through discussion, consultation and compensating the wronged.” AS

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