News: Tigray Orthodox Church goes ahead with election of ten episcopates despite Synod objections

Leaders of Tigray Orthodox Tewahdo Church the See of Selama Kesate Birhan. Photo: Dimtsi Woyane

Addis Abeba – Leaders of Tigray Orthodox Tewahdo Church the See of Selama Kesate Birhan, a newly established institution in the Tigray region independent of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church (EOTC), elected ten candidates on 16 July as would be espiscopates to lead dioceses both in the Tigray region and abroad under the Tigray Orthodox Tewahdo Church the See of Selama Kesate Birhan.

A Tigrayan native Orthodox priest, Aba Serekebirhan Woldesamuel, who was held by security forces against his will at Addis Abeba Bole International Airport while en route Mekelle from Australia, is elected as one of the ten prospective episcopates, according to regional media. After three days of ordeal inside the airport terminals, Aba Serekebirhan was forced to board a flight bound for India, from where he has returned to Melbourne, Australia.

Some 100 members of the See of Selama Kesate Birhan that included two women members have voted for 10 candidates from a list of 26 candidates at the event on Sunday which took place in the historic Aksum city inside the church of Saint Mary of Zion, one of the holiest sites of the Orthodox Church in Ethiopia. When anointed as episcopates the the candidates will lead five dioceses each in the Tigray region and abroad.

The Tigray orthodox Church leaders are proceeding with the independently restructured See of Selama Kesate Birhan as they blame the Holy Synod in Addis Abeba of endorsing and financially supporting a “war of genocide that was declared on the people of Tigray”; they have subsequently decided to cut ties with the Synod in February last year.

Yesterday’s election in Tigray took place at the same time with the anointment of nine episcopates by the Synod for various dioceses in Oromia and southern regions. 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.”

Earlier last week, the Synod has dismissed the decision by Tigray’s Orthodox leaders and said it “violates articles 37 and 38 of the church’s constitution, is inappropriate from the point of view of the church’s canon, which violates the central administration of the church and harms its unity.” As of yet, the Holy Synod has not responded to Sunday’s election in the region. It has also called on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the federal and Tigray regional governments “to help it solve the problems through dialogue and to facilitate a forum for dialogue.”AS

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