On The Passing Of Our Patriarch His Holiness Abune Paulos, Fifth Patriarch and Catholicos of Ethiopia, Ichege of the See of St. Tekle Haymanot, Archbishop of Axum and serving President of the World Council of Churches
We would like to express our condolences on the sudden and unexpected passing of our father, scholar, internationalist and tireless advocate for peace, Patriarch Abune Paulos.
As the spiritual guide of Ethiopia’s 40 million Orthodox Christians, The Patriarch suffered much spiritual and personal hardship and abuse during the 1970s in the jails of Colonel Mengistu Haile-Mariam and the Derg Communist Junta. Having watched the Church he was devoted to being persecuted and the then Patriarch Abune Tewflos being executed, the Patriarch was released from prison in 1983. There followed a period of exile and continuing study in the United States until his election as Patriarch in 1992-the year following the overthrow of the Communist government.
Born in Adwa, Tigray Province, Patriarch Abune Paulos was distinguished as the first member of his ethnic group to become Church Patriarch. Abune Paulos was only the fifth Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church since Emperor Haile-Selassie secured the Church’s independence in 1959 from the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt.
Having personally presided over the re-interment of Emperor Haile-Selassie in 2000 at Addis Ababa and the subsequent burial of other members of the royal family at the Holy Trinity Church, Abune Paulos retained an unabashed and life-long fondness for and attachment to the venerable history of the Ethiopian Empire, its people and its royal family.
The Patriarch’s personal valor, international regard and tireless spiritual diplomacy resulted in his recovering substantial church properties and assets seized previously by Ethiopia’s communist regime.
These scarce and valuable resources were immediately deployed in the service of the Ethiopian people.
The Abune was also a tireless advocate for the preservation of Ethiopia’s spiritual and cultural heritages.
Abune Paulos was also the first Church leader to bravely challenge deep seated social and cultural taboos to draw awareness to our nation’s devastating HIV-AIDS rates-and the immediate and critical need for treatment and preventive education.
Through trying and at times controversial circumstances the Patriarch’s spiritual leadership and prodigious efforts on behalf of peace, pragmatic internationalism and humanitarian leadership have shepherded Our ancient and venerable Church into the 21st century.
“No one loves Africa more than Africans,” said Abune Paulos, and only an “African solution” will solve African problems-two of the Patriarch’s more succinctly profound dicta that Ethiopians and Africans alike should cherish and always remember.
With the passing of Our venerable spiritual leader, we must now humbly seek the divine guidance of Almighty God to secure a wise and steady hand for our precious Church and people.
God bless the Ethiopian people and the Church. The Abune’s unique blend of spirituality, pragmatism, personal humanity, scholarship and international perspective will long be remembered and surely missed.