02 August 2023, The Tablet

Tigray Church elects bishops in defiance of Addis synod

Church leaders in Tigray accuse the Holy Synod in Addis Ababa of supporting a “war of genocide” in the region.

Tigray Church elects bishops in defiance of Addis synod

The dome and bell tower of the new Cathedral of St Mary of Zion in Axum. The town, one of the holiest sites in Ethiopian Orthodoxy, was the site of atrocities during the war in Tigray.
Jialing Gao / Wikimedia Commons

Leaders of the Tigray Orthodox Tewahdo Church’s See of Selama Kesate Birhan have elected ten candidates as bishops to lead dioceses both in the Tigray region and abroad.

The vote was conducted by 100 members of the see on 16 July, at a gathering in the historic city of Axum in northern Tigray inside the church of Saint Mary of Zion, one of the holiest sites of the Orthodox Church in Ethiopia.

In May, Tigray’s Orthodox leaders announced that the see’s centre had been moved to Axum.

This newly-established see in Tigray, independent of the Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church (EOTC), was created by Church leaders in the region who have cut ties with the synod in Addis Ababa, accusing it of endorsing and financially supporting a “war of genocide that was declared on the people of Tigray”.

Earlier in July, the EOTC dismissed the decision and said it “violates the central administration of the Church and harms its unity”.

It called on Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the federal government and regional governments in Tigray “to help it solve the problems through dialogue and to facilitate a forum for dialogue”. 

The synod also issued an apology to the people of Tigray for its role in the devastating war in the region, expressing regret for failing to ensure the safety of church leaders and followers during the conflict.

Following since the end of the war in late 2022, the Holy Synod has been seeking reconciliation with Orthodox leaders in Tigray. Its leaders have officially apologised for the delayed delivery of humanitarian assistance after the war ended, but a bishop from Tigray criticised the apology, saying that it failed to acknowledge the scale of the injustices committed.

The head of the EOTC Patriarch Abune Mathias I has criticised “self-appointment, which appears in unexpected and unusual situations within the church” and warned that it “must be curbed”.

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