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His Holiness had great vision for the Eritrean Orthodox Church. As the Scriptures tell us, “But the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands” (Isaiah 32:8). The work of H.H Patriarch Antonios was something he began way back in his tender age as a youth.  As it is written in his brief biography, he was a diligent student as a deacon. His accomplishments in his monastery, Debre Tsige Sef’a, are legendary.

As a young monk he had distinguished himself as a patient and thoughtful servant.  In his agricultural work and as an Abbott since 1955, many speak of his humility, love and spiritual care of others was exemplary.

Fast-forward, God willed for him to go to Cairo, Egypt and be consecrated a bishop by Pope Shenouda III on May 19, 1994. Ten years later, he became Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church. 

From the very beginning, he set out to accomplish ambitious plans for the church. The following are a few examples.

1. Campaign against Witchcraft:

It was for the first time in the history of the church to hold a conference to confront the practice of witchcraft by some who claim to be followers of the EOC. This conference, attended by 150 people representing all the orders of the clergy and it was held on June 22, 2004 in the village of Tsa’eda Christian.

The conference concluded by calling all those who practice witchcraft to forswear the practice and repent of their sins.  Under the leadership of H.H Patriarch Antonios, the Holy Synod reproached the encroachment of this evil into the church.

2. Tithing:

H.H Patriarch Antonios was the first leader of the church to re-introduce and reinforce the biblical teaching of tithing. He tried to introduce tithing because he was convinced that it is critically important for the EOC to become self-supporting and not rely on one else to continue its mandate of preaching the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To this end, on his instructions a conference of representatives from all the dioceses were convened on May 5, 2005. The final outcome of this initiative was the introduction of the practice of tithing in the church.

3. Publications:

With the realization that the church was lagging behind in its ministry  of literature, the establishment of a publishing house was another landmark initiative of the Patriarch. Because of opposition by the Yoftahe group, however, this plan remains unfulfilled to this day.

4. Higher Education (College of Theology):

Having realized that lack of education and training of the clergy of the EOC is its greatest weakness and detrimental to its future, H.H Patriarch Antonios had enthusiastically embarked on addressing this issue.  One of these efforts had already begun during the tenure of H.H. Patriarch Filipos, First Patriarch of the EOC. H.H Patriarch Antonios, with the help and guidance of Pope Shenouda III and the Coptic Church had broken ground in Asmara to establish the first theological college.  Again, because the of the chaos within the EOC and Mr. Yoftahe’s interference, this effort – we are sure much to the disappointment of Pope Shenouda III and the Coptic Church – has come to naught.  It is to be noted here that the Coptic Church gave so much to this sacred effort.

5. Expanding Ministry:

Another significant achievement of H.H Patriarch Antonios is his efforts to  expand the ministry of the church in such areas as health care. He led a delegation in January 2005 to Greek to discuss the possibility of collaboration between the EOC and the Greek Orthodox Church to establish a clinic in Eritrea.  Again, this project was ready to be functional when the familiar events within the church brought the efforts to a screeching halt.  Another project to establish a small-scale factory in Debarwa designed for the manufacturing of all things essential for the liturgical and other ministries of the church suffered the same fate. 

 6. Administrative Reform:

Patriarch Antonios’ signal contribution emanates from his abiding belief in the maintenance of the independence of the church from being encroached upon by anyone who does not have her best interest at heart.  Although the church has led an autocephalous (independent) existence for only a decade and a half, the EOC has been in existence for the past 1700 years.  As one who has sworn to protect and lead the church, his most important challenge was directed at Mr. Yoftahe.

When the latter published and disseminated a “new “ constitution of the church in February 2005 naming himself as “the Administrator “ of the church, H.H Patriarch Antonios confronted the challenge head-on.  He fearlessly advocated that the Holy Synod over which the patriarch presides is the highest body to decide on anything affecting the EOC.  As this placed him on a collision course with Mr. Yoftahe, the conscience of each member of the Synod was placed on a scale. Many balked as His Holiness stood alone but firm.

7. Consecration of Bishops:

With the realization that the EOC needed to consecrate many more bishops in order to fulfill the growing demands of the church’s ministries, H.H Patriarch Antonios and the Holy Synod he presided over consecrated the largest number of bishops in the brief history of the autocephalous EOC. 

What is disheartening is, when H.H Patriarch Antonios stood boldly and opposed the intrusion of Mr. Yoftahe in the affairs of the church, none of the six diocesan bishops that were consecrated by His Holiness stood by his side.  They feared Mr. Yoftahe and betrayed H.H Patriarch Antonios.

8. Sunday Schools:

In the wise counsel of Pope Shenouda III, a church without young people is a church without hope for the future. H.H Patriarch Antonios understood this more than anyone else.  Consequently, he directed all his energy into nurturing the young people of the church spiritually and strengthening them through the word of God.

In the EOC there was a dangerous tendency to view the large number of young people that were flocking back to the church with suspicion.  Many went so far as wanting to put many of these young people out of the church.

Yoftahe and some determined that such spiritual resurgence by so many young people in so many churches represented a threat to his position and left no stone unturned to make sure that this huge tide of interest by young people is stopped.

To this end, he orchestrated the imprisonment of some of the most highly educated clergy in the EOC. Four 18 years later, they remain in prison.

On the other hand, H.H Patriarch Antonios strongly condemned the actions of Mr. Yoftahe and his clique.  His well-known statement to the president of the State of Eritrea advocating for the imprisoned priests was: “If the allegations for which these clergy are imprisoned concerns civil or criminal violations, they should be charged in a court of law.

If their alleged offences are theological, this falls into the jurisdiction of the church, and, therefore, they should be released immediately.” Sadly, and unbelievable as it may sound, H.H. Patriarch Antonios’ advocacy for the youth of the church and his championing the cause of the imprisoned priests was among the causes his enemies cited for his removal.

Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. Psalm 112:6.




ካብ ውሽጢ ኤርትራ ዝተረኽበ ንቤተ ክርስቲያን ተዋህዶ ንምቁጽጻር ብመንግስቲ ኤርትራ ክካየድ ዝጸንሐን ዘሎን ሽርሒ ዘቃልዕ ቪድዮ 

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