Ethiopia: Ethiopian church patriarch Abune Paulos ‘dies’
August 16, 2012 (BBC) - The head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abune Paulos, has died aged 76, an official has told the BBC.The news was confirmed by Mulugeta Aserate Kassa, an adviser at the Ethiopian embassy in Lo
ndon.He suffered a heart attack, according to opposition website Ethiopian Review.
No funeral details have been released, but Abune Paulos is expected to receive a state funeral. About half of Ethiopia’s population are estimated to be Orthodox Christians.
Mr Mulugeta told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme the patriarch had been “very healthy” on Wednesday, when he led a service in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
‘Pragmatist at heart’
He later fell ill and was rushed to hospital, said Mr Mulugeta, a close friend of the patriarch.
The patriarch died early on Thursday morning, he added.
Mr Mulugeta said he could not confirm the cause of death, but the patriarch had suffered from hypertension and diabetes.
Abune Paulos was chosen to lead the church in 1992 – a year after the overthrow of the communist government of Mengistu Haile Mariam.
“He brought the church in line to meet the challenges of the 21st Century,” Mr Mulugeta said.
“He was a pragmatist at heart.”
He was jailed under Mengistu and then went into exile in the US.
Critics accused him of being close to current Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who has also been ill recently.
Abune Paulos was the first person from the Tigray ethnic group – the same as Mr Meles – to head the country’s Orthodox Church, Mr Mulugeta said.
“He was loved by many,” he added.
Samuel M. Gebru, pro-Ethiopian Government website has the following statement:
August 16, 2012
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
His Holiness Abune Paulos, 76, Patriarch and Catholicos of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, has passed away in Addis Ababa. The Patriarch was a brilliant person who presided over rough times of the Church of Ethiopia.
Patriarch Abune Paulos was a champion of many causes. Himself a refugee, the Patriarch fought for the unity of Christianity and passes away having most recently served as President of the World Council of Churches.
I have always admired His Holiness and was supposed to meet him this week at the Patriarchate in Addis Ababa. We were together a few weeks ago celebrating his 20th Anniversary as Patriarch of the Church of Ethiopia. I will always cherish his genuine smile and the cross he gave me.
My deepest condolences to his family, friends and the faithful of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. It is particularly regrettable that the Patriarch passed away during this fasting season of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He did his doctoral thesis on the Assumption.
I pray that the Lord brings peace to the Church and Ethiopia.
–Samuel M. Gebru
(From Wikipedia) Patriarch Dr. Abune Paulos was born in Adwa in Tigray Province; his birth name was Gebre Medhin Wolde Yohannes. His family was long associated with the Abba Garima Monastery near the town, and he entered the monastery as a young boy as a deacon trainee, eventually taking monastic orders and being ordained a priest. Then known as Abba Gebre Medhin, he continued his education at the Theological College of the Holy Trinity in Addis Ababa under the patronage of Patriarch Abune Tewophilos. He was sent to study at the St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in the United States, and afterwards joined the doctoral program at the Princeton Theological Seminary.
Following the fall of the Derg in 1991, the then Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abuna Merkorios, was dethroned in circumstances that remain under dispute. Patriarch Abune Merkorios and his supporters maintain that he was forced from office by the new EPRDF-led government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and its supporters, while his opponents maintain that the Patriarch abdicated following numerous protests against him by the faithful. His attempt to reverse his abdication was refused by the Holy Synod of the Church which authorized a new Patriarchal election. Abune Paulos was elected in 1992, and Abune Merkorios and his supporters went into exile, establishing a rival synod in the United States. The enthronement of Abune Paulos as Patriarch is still recognized by all the canonical Orthodox Christian, and other canonical churches, and recognized by the Coptic Patriarchate in Alexandria, Egypt…..