Addis Abeba – In a statement released this afternoon, the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church (EOTC) in Addis Abeba has said religious leaders in the Tigray region created “a new illegal regional structure called ‘Menber Selama Tigray Archdiocese office” in a way that violates “the institutional unity and existing structural organization of our church.”
The Synod also said that religious leaders in Tigray appointed bishops for dioceses abroad against what is “clearly stipulated in the church’s constitution”, which dictates bishops can be appointed in all dioceses by the decision of the plenary session of the Holy Synod and the signature of His Holiness the Patriarch. “While His Holiness the Patriarch is still in office and the Synod’s unity is strong”, the religious leaders in the Tigray region “deliberately violated the canonical and administrative procedures of the Church” by appointing bishops for dioceses abroad “without the Holy Synod’s decision and without the Holy Patriarch’s signature.”
The Synod’s complaint came after the news that the See of Selama Kessate Beharan Archdiocese, Tigray Orthodox Tewahdo Church, a newly organized structure in the Tigray region, appointed Archbishops to serve the Tigrayan diaspora in USA, Europe,Canada, Australia and dioceses organized under the Tigray Orthodox Tewahdo Church.
“In the great Diocese of Tigray, which is the foundation of faith and history, such a structure that endangers our church and saddens all the followers of the faith in the world is a behavior that is not suitable for the historical people and scholars of Tigray,” the Synod said.
On 09 February, the Tigray Orthodox Church Council of Bishops held a joint meeting in which they have issued a rejection to an earlier call made by the Holy Synod’s Secretariat requesting for talks of reconciliation and normalization of relations between the Synod in Addis Abeba and Tigray Orthodox Church.
In a joint statement by members of the the Council of Bishops of Tigray Orthodox Church: Abune Isaias, Archbishop of Tigray’s capital city of Mekelle and Southern Tigray Diocese and newly appointed Chairperson of the See of Selama Kesate Berhan Orthodox Tewahedo Church Assembly of Tigray; Abune Makaryos, Archbishop of Axum Central Tigray Zone Diocese & Member of the Assembly; Abune Merha Christos, Archbishop of the Eastern Zone – Archbishop of Adigrat and Southern Tigray Maychew Diocese & Member of the Congregation; and Abune Petros, Archbishop of the Holy Trinity Northwest Tigray and West Tigray Setit Humera Diocese, Member of the Assembly, acknowledged receipt of the letter from the Holy Synod Office but declined the call stating lists of wrongdoings they accused the Synod of, including, endorsing what they said was a “war of genocide” that was “declared on the people of Tigray,” and explaining why they find it difficult to mend relations with the Synod in Addis Abeba.
It was on 07 May 2021 that the Archbishops in Tigray announced the formation of the new Tigray Orthodox Church, effectively cutting ties with the EOTC Holy Synod in Addis Abeba. The archbishops of Tigray said their decision to severe ties with the Synod was as a result of the its silence while many priests were killed, monasteries and churches in Tigray were destroyed and religious heritages were looted during the war.
In its statement today, the Synod denied the accusations, including the withholding of the budget for the Tigray region. “It is known that there is no decision by the Holy Synod not to send the budget of the Diocese in the Tigray region, and it is known that the communication was cut off due to the suspension of banking services due to the civil war,” the Synod said. It also said that in “a letter signed by His Holiness the Patriarch, we expressed the grief and sorrow felt by the Holy Church following the war” and “the problem caused by not being financially accessible to the Diocese during the crisis,” it said.
Referring to the recent schism that threatened to breakup up the Church, the Synod said that at a time it is “working with great responsibility to resolve the challenge” and “to strengthen the Synod unity unity of the church” such an act from the people of faith and scholars of Tigray, who are the “basis of history” is not appropriate. We urge for it “to be stopped immediately.”
The Synod said it has called for an emergency meeting to take place next week on 30 March “to discuss and decide on the general structural problems in the region and the general problems that have happened to our church,” and it called upon the bishops in the Tigray region “who are assigned by the Holy Synod to attend the emergency meeting and “participate in the discussion to solve the regional problem.”
While expressing its readiness to solve the challenges, the Synod also pleaded with the newly established Interim Regional Administration (IRA) of Tigray, to play its role “in stopping the organizational structure that violates the institutional unity and the canon” of the religion to maintain “the institutional unity of our church.”
Finally, the Synod also called on all the believers in the Tigray region to play a part in prayers and vows “to stop the canonical violations and illegal organization… just as you have been steadfast in prayers and vows, so that the challenge that has happened to our church can be removed and its unity to remain strong.” AS