The Patriarch: damn if he signs, damn if he doesn't sign The Minutes

By Dilwenberu Nega
Nov. 04 2010

EOTC's first Patriarch Abune Baslios

In my previous article entitled "How come what is acceptable in ECC is unacceptable in EOTC," I opined why it would be wrong for the Holy Synod to apply either double standards or give in to political expediency when dealing with matters of the statue of Patriarch Paulos of Ethiopia.

The case for the demolition of the statute has now collapsed after it emerged that EOTC's first Patriarch Abune Baslios had commissioned his own statute in a white gown (mind you people were wrongly accusing Abune Paulos of violating EOTC's tradition by wearing white) 8 years prior to his death. Please note that this statute stands in the sanctum - not outside the precinct of a church like Abune Paulos' - of the church of Debre Tsiege, in Goha Tsion. The other contributing factor for the collapse of the case against the statute pertains to a legal argument. Thank God, today we live in a healthy democracy where the Rule of Law is paramount. The statute is a gift to His Holiness by a fellowship of EOTC in Addis Ababa. It stands in a public square, permission of which was granted by Addis Ababa's City Administration. EOTC has no jurisdiction on matters outside its catchment area - the fenced perimeter of the church.

If in their wisdom the Princes of the Church feel that they should make a representation to the City Administration for the statute to be demolished and - let's say for the sake of argument - the authorities go ahead and demolish it; do you have any idea what would follow next? Ethiopians from the four corners of the country will converge at the City Administratition demanding the demolition of Colonel Mengistu's statute. How can you forget what the response of the law was when Oromos on horse back converged at Adwa Square to break into smithereens Emperor Menelik's monument.

What is called for now is to excercise maximum tolerance which is one of the defining attributes of an Ethiopian Orthodox. You cannot try to impose your will on the House of God by force simply because you do not like Abune Paulos. We did not put him there. He is there by the will of God, and there he will remain by the will of God. Far from hitting its target of forcing the resignation of the Patriarch over the statute, what 'vuvuzela politics' in the blogosphere has, instead, done is cause unwarranted tension within the community of EOTC arround the world.

Cabal in the Holy Synod?

Gone are the days when Holy Synod meetings were events to look forward to with great sense of expectation. Today's Hoy Synod sessions, on the other hand, are known by leaks of proceedings and infighting. Rather than be on our knees and pray for the Holy Spirit to guide the session, the Ethiopian Diaspora's arm-chair politicians and attic intellectuals are seen taking delight on a Holy Synod at war with itself. Why would a Member of the Holy Synod excuse himself from an ongoing meeting only to pass on news of the proceeding via mobile to the media? Are not Holy Synod meetings meant to be secret conclaves? Why do bloggers act like purveyors of garnished news by jet-hosing society with veracity-challenged news? What does anyone stand to gain if Abune X replaces Abune Y?

It cannot be denied that the Patriarch has had run ins with members of the Holy Synod in general, but more so with young and ambitious members of the Holy Synod who feel that the Patriarch outshines them in more ways than one. Born to a humble family in Adwa, he is the longest serving Patriarch of Ethiopia. Gregarious and humble though he may be, he deliberately is being misunderstood by those who have an axe to grind. His reign has ushered in a range of reforms, and has given the Bete Kehenet long overdue face-lift. He has also broken other 'records' which his critics do not want the general public to know. Educated through the various traditions of EOTC's schooling and having lived through the rigours of the life of a hermit in one of EOTC's renowned monasteries, Abba Gerima, Abune Paulos went on to Harvard and secured Phd in Divinity thus becoming the first Head of EOTC to be properly armed with traditional EOTC teachings and modern theology. In 2002 he made history by becoming the first Ethiopian ever to address the World Economic Forum when it held its first meeting outside Davos, Switzerland, in New York City. This a pride to our Mother Church and Ethiopians. Why is it then that he has been made the target of sneer and smearhaolics particularly in the Ethiopian Diaspora? Is he really the person Ethiopia's toxic Diaspora are trying to portray?

The problem he has with those he loves no matter what they call him is not of his making. It stems from the fact that Abune Paulos also broke a widely held view within EOTC: the belief the Amhara was the 'chosen custodian' of the Crown and the Cross, i.e. The Bete Mengist and The Bete Kehenet. Not seldom but never ever in the history of EOTC has a non-Amhara made it to the Patriarchate despite the fact that Axum was the birth place of Ethiopian christianity.

This explains why the Amhara elite within the Ethiopian Diaspora was the first to attack Abune Paulos over trumped up allegations. The laughable thing, however, is that it was Amhara friends of Abune Paulos who turned against him close on the heels of him becoming Patriarch of Ethiopia.

The Patriarch continues to stoically withstand the avalanche of smear coming out from those whose very life style is anything but Christian. He has survived an attempt on his life. Those who were hounding and hunting down innocent Ethiopians during the era of the Derg had the temerity to bar Abune Paulos entry to EOTC churches when he visited in the US and Europe. Tell me something, if you will, what kind of Christianity what kind of EOTC tradition allowes a blood-stained remenant of the Derg to bar the Head of EOTC entry to a church building? It is acts like these which politicise the true motives of Abune Paulos' critics.

Meanwhile, however, the general public need to be aware of what had actually transpired at last week's Holy Synod session: a highly synchronised attempted coup d'etat to unseat the Patriarch of Ethiopia. Here, then, is the sequence:
1. Egged on by the minor controversy which had momentarily surrounded the building of the statute, the estranged former Arch Bishop of Addis Ababa got as busy as a bee a week prior to the commencement of the Holy Synod, and succeeded in convincing the great and the good of the Holy Synod to back the motion of the statute at their forth-coming session.

2. To the former Arch Bishop of Addis Ababa this particular session had to be pay back time. He has got his troops lined up. He has assigned his loyal deacon friend the job of feeding Addis Ababa's tabloids with a carefully written dispatches portraying the Patriarch as out of touch. It was purposely designed to portray the Patriarch as too old and ill to discharge his duties. The task of jet-hosing the Ethiopian Diaspora with exagerations and naked lies was left to those who wish to fish in troubled waters: de je

3. Once he was assured that the stage was set, the former Arch Bishop of Addis Ababa introduced a motion demanding the demolition of the statute. The Patriarch was asked for his views, and he detailed the fact that he did not commission the monument and while he does not deny that he had unveiled the statute himself, he catagorically denied having any prior knowledge of the existence of a statute. When asked why he did not order its demolition he said that to the best of his knowledge the building of a statute for non-worship purpose did not breach the Word of God, nor does it clash on with the custom and tradition of EOTC.

4. Not all - but a big majority, nevertheless, voted for the demolition of the statute. However, on the final day of the Holy Synod session, the Patriarch laid before Their Emminencies photos of the statute of his Egyptian counter-part H.H. Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria. He also informed the Holy Synod that he has been told by church official that H.H. Abune Baslios had also built a statute 8 years before his untimely death.

5. The former Arch Bishop of Addis turned ballistic and remained in a state of frenzy for the rest of the afternoon. His aim was to force the Patriarch to sign the minutes which orders the demolition of his statute. But the Patriarch resisted presures to put his name down, and has vowed not to do so to his dying breath. The reason is obvious: signing the minutes in essence means that the Patriarch is self-incriminating himself of committing idolatory - a grave crime under EOTC's Canon Law the punishment of which is unconditional and immediate removal from The Office of the Patriarch of Ethiopia.

His Holiness' conscience is clear, and most importantly he remains at peace with his Creator. When the dust settles, and settle it will, many will come to rue the day that they emitted 'poison' over what is a non-issue. Now he has refused to sign the Minutes on grounds of principle, he is being accused by the likes of de je of being an adamantine dictator. So be it as he is not accountable to bloggers. Let the bloggers blog and let His Holiness remain nailed to the Cross and we shall then see who will prevail.

Yet again God has rescued the Holy Father from cabalist. Mark my word, the cabalists will be back with their new arsenals when the Holy Synod sits in session in six months time. The Holy Father remains unperturbed for he is at peace with God for God will not allow cabal to triumph over truth. Have faith!