The patriarch of Ethiopia’s Orthodox Church, Abune Paulos has died aged 76, officials said yesterday. “His holiness has passed away,” government spokesman Shimeles Kemal told the news agency, AFP, but could not provide details of his death.
Abune Paulos, Patriarch of the
However, according to Ethiopian Review website (www.ethiopianreview.net), he died after suffering a heart attack.
Their story stated that a staff member of the Bete Kehenet compound [the church’s headquarters] told them that the patriarch was admitted to Balcha Hospital in Addis Ababa on Tuesday, following a heart attack.
“Yesterday,” Ethiopia Review continued, “he was completely paralyzed and later on he went into a coma” from which he never recovered.
AFP reports that Abune was the patriarch of Ethiopia’s Orthodox Church since 1992, when he was elected to the highest order of the denomination.
“Some two-thirds of Ethiopia’s 83 million people are Christian, the majority following the Orthodox faith. The office of the patriarch is expected to hold an emergency meeting today to finalise funeral arrangements,” said the AFP story.
It is not clear whether Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi – who has been on sick leave in recent weeks and has not been seen in public since June – will attend the funeral.
“I have no information,” Shimeles said, when asked if Meles is expected to attend the mourning.
Born in Tigray in northern Ethiopia, Abune was sporadically seen in public in his characteristic white robes, striking silver cross and tall white hat. Before becoming patriarch, Abune – whose father was a priest – also served as a monk and a bishop, added AFP.
Abune served as a president of the controversial World Council of Churches, an umbrella organization made up of 349 churches and denominations from around the world and representing 560 million Christians.
“He was seen as instrumental in brokering peace in the Ethiopia-Eritrea border war that ended in 2007, and was awarded a Nansen Medal by the UN refugee agency in 2000 for his peace and humanitarian work,” said the AFP story.
Ethiopia is home to some of Africa’s oldest Orthodox churches, including a cluster of 11 ancient rock-hewn churches in Lalibella which are designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. (I once visited there with Franklin Graham and was astonished with the beauty of the site).
Meanwhile, the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre UK has issued a statement in which it said that it “extends its condolences to and offers its prayers for her sister Ethiopian Orthodox Church upon the departure of His Holiness Abune Paulos, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.”
His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of The Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom then said: “Upon hearing of the departure of His Holiness the late Abune Paulos, I contacted His Eminence Archbishop Antonios of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church here in the United Kingdom, expressing our condolences and assuring him of our prayers.
“We pray repose for the soul of Abune Paulos and for comfort, strength and wisdom for the Ethiopian Orthodox faithful around the world. Having ourselves recently experienced the departure of our pope and patriarch, we are as confident that God will provide our brethren in our sister church a faithful shepherd and servant, as we are that He will provide the same for us.”