The supreme body of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Holy Synod, has issued a strongly worded protest against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who cast the recent tension in the Church as “an internal matter” and “an ordinary dispute and personal disagreement between the church leaders”.
A week ago, in a church in the Oromia region, 26 bishops were ordained by three archbishops, Aba Sawiros, Aba Zena Markos, and Aba Eustathius, without the consent of the Synod and the Patriarch. The Synod pronounced a condemnation, saying the move would threaten to undermine the church’s hierarchical structure, and flagrantly violates the sacred and ancient ecclesiastical canons. The synod demanded the government interfere to enforce the rule of law.
However, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said that church leaders should negotiate the solution among themselves and officials should distance themselves from the problems. In his meeting with his cabinet members, broadcast on national television on Tuesday, the Prime Minister explained his government’s belief that the dispute with the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church was an internal matter.
The Synod, however, stated that “it was inappropriate to portray the event as deriving from an ordinary dispute and personal disagreement, saying doing so is to disregard legal institutions and ignore the government’s responsibility to protect and guarantee legitimate institutions. Especially disturbing to the Synod was the implication by the Prime Minister that the Synod was opposed to using the Oromo language in the church service, which was far from reality.
Before the Prime Minister’s speech at a meeting with his cabinet members, there was no official reaction by the government to the crisis in the Church.
At the cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister said that the government painstakingly tried to bring the two parties closer together and said, “they paid no heed to our advice”, calling for dialogue. “We don’t just favor one group over another group. Both are Orthodox and both sides have truths.”
However, the Synod said the call for dialogue could only provide a veneer of legitimacy to the rogue clergy, while threats and harassment against recognised religious leaders are on the rise.
According to the Synod’s statement, the Prime Minister’s call for reconciliation with the individuals who were condemned for breaking canon law and for mounting a coup against the church decision-making body was tantamount to asking the synod members to disregard their religious instructions and doctrinal order.
The Synod has called on the government to uphold the authority of the laws and to ensure the safety and security of the Church.
If the government fails to take any action, the Synod, the Patriarch, and the faithful will call national and international demonstrations, and rallies to call attention to the plight of the Church, the statement said.