How come what is acceptable to ECC is unacceptable to EOTC?

By Dilwenberu Nega
Oct. 31 2010

His Holiness Abune Paulos

Over the last week a confraternity of scare-mongerers were in a state of frenzy, following reports that the gaggle of 'Princes of the Church' who make up EOTC's Governing Body, The Holy Synod, has decided to demolition Patriarch Paulos's monument which stands outside the precinct of the Church of Medehanealem in Bole, as well as, the removal from church compounds of Millennum billboards showing the Patriarch in deep prayer mode.

If the reports that have so far appeared on Addis Ababa's Amharic bi-weekly, Reporter, and US based anti-Patriarch Paulos web-site deje selam, prove to be correct, I then excercise my weright not to say amen to the resolution, as well as question the virtue and moral authority of the Holy Synodd. I, however, do so with a great sense of humility and I hope the Fathers of our Mother Church would forgive in giving vent to my frustrations with EOTC, and with my anger and dismay at seeing the Holy Synod being plagued by double standards. On a personal level, however, I take pride of the fact that I continue to excercise my filial obligations with everyone who is anyone in our Church's hierrachy.

My opposition to the resolution stems from my justifiable stand point that the Holy Synod must not be seen applying double standards in dealing with temporal matters. After all, is not a monument - either of the living or the dead used for strictly non-worship purposes - a purely temporal affair? If the Princes of the Church - having declining past umpteen requests by the general public for "the Church to apologize for turning a blind eye and a deaf ear" when the entire population was subjected to misery under the Derg's 17 years misrule - now decide to be the moral voice of society, well and good. All I am asking Their Eminencies is to accept that "what is sauce to the goose is sauce to the gander" and to proceed by calling on the EPDRF Government "to remove the image of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam from the Statute of Martyrs' Monument in Addis. How can they forget - forget the mayhem and death of individual Ethiopians - that it was Colonel himself who had ordered the death by strangulation of EOTC's fourth Patriarch, H.H.Abuna Theopheos I? How can the air-bombardment of the ancient and historical church of Adwa Selassie be allowed to slip from the contours of their memories?

That is why I am prompted to question the virtue which, on the one hand, allows Their Emminencies to order the demolition of Abuna Paulos' monument, and on the other had, forbids them from utteingr a single word on the removal of the statute of the man who had killed their Brother-in-Christ in 1976. Numero uno double standard!

If they have reached the descion based on either the Creed of EOTC or the Word of God, let Their Emminencies bring it on so that we, the meek-hearted, shall henceforth stop from back-sliding. I have raked my brains over the past couple of days in hot pursuit of whether or not building a monument as a "love gift" to a living holy father constitutes idolatory. I have consulted a range of opinions from deacons right up to Bishops, I have taken counsel from my own spiritual mentor, but all to no avail. For no one would tell me for certain that it contravens the Word of God. I also quickly rummaged through pages both in the Old and New Testamens, but could not find anything that prohibits the building of a statute for of a living father for non-worship purposes

Eureka! Finally my search on google directed me to a tangible proof. In churches which are in communian with EOTC, the bulding of a statute for a living Holy Father is very much work in progress. H.H. Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria, and Patriarch of the Holy See of St Mark, the Evangelist, is a man who is very much loved and revered Holy Father both in Egypt and in Ethiopia where EOTC is in communian wilth the Egyptian Coptic Church (ECC). EOTC fellowship in Addis Ababa showered Pope Shenouda III with huge outpourings of love and respect when he paid an official visit to Ethiopia at the invitation of his counter part, H.H. Patriarch Paulos in 2007. Relations between EOTC and ECC today is at an all time high. Nearly all the works of Pope Shenouda III are translated into Amharic. We, therefore, have every reason to conclude that what would be sacred to ECC would automatically be deemed sacred to EOTC and vice versa. If building a statute for a living Holy Father was deemed idolaterous, believe you me that there would be no way - come hell or high-water - that H.H. Pope Shenouda III would go ahead and sanction his spirutal sons and daughters to build his statutes. As you can see for yourself by loging to this web-link below, huge statutes of Pope Shenouda III are built a shout away from Egypt's most holiest of monasteries. Then, what's all this hue and cry over what is to all intents and purposes a no-brainer? Might it be covetousness? Who knows.

I am prepared to buy the resolution of removing Patriarch Paulos' billboard if and only if someone can convince me that the presence of a bill board is against the Word of God or the custom and tradition of EOTC. What kind of custom or tradition, might I ask, allows the image of a person to adorn the ceiling of a church? Addis Ababa's Trinity Cathedral in Arat Kilo is the epi-center of most of EOTC's great and colourful ceremonials. It is, there where our Bishops are consecrated and where our Patriarchs are enthroned. However, when you gaze your eyes at the ceiling, what you see is not the portrait of the image of the Risen Christ or the Blessed Mary, but that of Ethiopia's last King, Haile Selassie I. He might have built the Cathedral; but so have today's nouveau-riche built even bigger ones. The former King was the constitutional "Defender of the Faith of EOTC." Yes, Haile Selassie did so many great deeds including securing Home Rule and the right to appoint her own Holy Father to EOTC from ECC. But the bottom line remains that he is neither God or Mesiah, and, therefore, the church must not allow a church ceiling to be used to glorify individuals. That is the moral dilemma that faces the Fathers of our EOTC now. Do they have the courage and moral authority to apply the same standards as they have have used to pass judgment on their Brother-in-Christ? Or are they going to give in to socio-economic expediency and practice double standards which is totally unacceptable in the Kingdom of God?

Last but not least, you are, of course, at liberty to reach your own descion on the merit and demerit of the statute, but of one essential element you cannot afford not to realise that the whole issue of the statute is the camouflage 'dark knights in the church' are applying to oust a Brother in Christ whom God had raised from humble beginnigs and who is using him profusely to prepare EOTC fit for the challenges of the 21st century.