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PRESS RELEASE

August 9, 2016

The Diaspora Archdiocese of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church (North America, Europe and the Middle East)

The Diaspora Diocese has been following closely and prayerfully a process that has recently been underway at bringing reconciliation and returning His Holiness Abune Antonios, the 3rd Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, to his patriarchal throne. On Friday,  August 5, 2016, a delegation composed of monastic fathers, scholars of the church and representatives of the government (about twenty persons in all) visited His Holiness where he has been held a prisoner for the past ten years. They expressed the purpose of their visit as being to bring reconciliation. On Monday, August 8, 2016, His Holiness was transported to the Patriarchate in Asmara to continue the dialogue for much of the day.

A true reconciliation that leads to the restoration of the Eritrean Orthodox Church into canonicity and the Church’s return into full union with its sisterly Oriental Orthodox Churches from which it has severed itself, is always welcome. This is, after all, what the Diaspora Diocese has indefatigably worked for over the past ten years. It must be said, however, that any reconciliation that is not based in true repentance, Christian love and righteousness, will only amount to mere human manipulation of that which is sacred for political expediency.

Based on canon law, and as has been clearly evident from the very outset of the crisis in the Eritrean Orthodox Church, a grave matter as the removal of a patriarch can ONLY be contemplated under the following three circumstances:

            (1) Moral failure

            (2) Denial of the faith,

            (3) Incapacitations due to physical or mental impairment. 

None of the above were invoked in the “deposing” of His Holiness Abune Antonios back in 2006. Nor did he commit any other violations, ecclesiastical or penal codes. It is, therefore, only in this light that the statement that was put out by the “Holy Synod of the Eritrean Orthodox Church” on Monday, August 8, 2006 can be viewed.

For a true reconciliation to occur, we sincerely expected those, who, having appointed themselves accusers, juries and judges, and availed themselves to do the bidding of civil authorities to “depose” and imprison His Holiness for ten years, to ask for forgiveness. Instead, yesterday’s official statement by the “synod” put the following words in His Holiness’ mouth: “I ask for the forgiveness of the Holy Synod for everything I have committed intentionally or unintentionally.” The statement of the “synod” then went on to express that it has dispensed “mercy” and “clemency”. No one knows as yet what the implications of all this.

Conversely, there has been no concrete statement from His Holiness Abune Antonios himself, written or orally. But the church canon is also clear on this matter. No statement of “reconciliation” can be taken at face value where the venue is not free from any duress and without the participation of a neutral third party. Furthermore, the synod, with the full backing of the government, cannot be the accusing party, the judge, and now the agent to declare “reconciliation.”

For a true reconciliation to take place, it must occur somewhere else considered free and neutral.

Furthermore, we again call for full separation of church and state, and for non-interference by the government in the affairs of the church. We also call for all Eritrean citizens, whether living abroad or in the country, to realize their full rights to religious liberty.

We fully support and join in prayer with the union of monasteries and the council of church scholars for all the efforts they have expended to bring about true reconciliation in our Church. We urge them to persevere in this sacred effort.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

 

The Diaspora Archdioceses of North America, Europe and the Middle East.

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