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A statement from the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Holy Synod

The Following is the full translation of the first Resolution passed by the General Assembly of the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in its emergency meeting on 26/01/2023 regarding the current religious, canonical, and administrative violations that occurred against the Church

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen.

The Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church led by the Holy Spirit holds an emergency General Assembly in case of urgent and emergency issues by the provisions of Article 19 Number 3 of the Constitution of the Church. Accordingly, it convened an emergency General Assembly on the 26th of January, 2023, and passed a resolution regarding the current religious, canonical, and administrative violations that occurred against the Church.

The Ancient, Apostolic, and Universal Holy Church has served every generations by reconciling differences between people and nations, Men and Angels, all creatures and Creator, and above all between man and God, and all human beings. Handed down from the generation to generations, the Church has reached our age through numerous challenges preaching and teaching about the kingdom of God regardless of language, color, and race; and baptizing people to be the children of God. The Holy Church founded on the Blood of Christ has passed all the challenges it faced.

Dividing the people of God Ethnically or linguistically is violation of Doctrine, However, attempt of dividing the Church by ethnicity and language is a strange phenomenon at the global level, unlike the Holy Scriptures and the Orthodox doctrine, the church was attacked in a way that does not fit its history and ecclesial Orders, spiritual tradition and, rule of conscience. That has greatly saddened the Holy Synod and all Christians!

Throughout its history, the Holy Church has been the foundation and pillar for national unity, peaceful social bonds, justice, wisdom, coexistence, social development, health, and ethics. It has been universally honored, respected, and loved; its values and potential wealth of knowledge are recognized by international scholars, and taught in higher education institutions; and its heritages are documented and inscribed by global representatives’ lists.

Recently, a very serious illegal act of dismantling its institutional structure is executed by the Individuals, who were appointed and entrusted with the episcopacy, and highest apostolic mission in the country and abroad, violating its foundation of faith, religious canons, its administrative order. This act is an illegal act of betrayal of the very truth that the Church stood with the people in the development and management of society, and its spiritual and public institutional structure, which is always free and neutral from politics.

Accordingly

On the 22nd of January, 2023, a very disheartening disgraceful and un-syndical scandal conducted in the Aro Be’ala Wold Church, located Sodo Datu District of Southwest Showa Diocese. The Holy Synod held an urgent general assembly under the guidance of the Holy Spirit regarding this illegal violation of the canon of the Church.

The Holy Synod has considered the recommendations, positions statements, letters and resolutions expressed through various ways including media and in-person from all dioceses in the country and abroad; the Administrative Council of the Head Office of the Patriarchate, the Council of Scholars; the Department of Legal Services, the Union of Youth and Sunday Schools at the international and national level, the spiritual associations, the joint voices of the laities and servants.

The holy Synod has also appreciated the solidarity of our family of Holy Church in the country and abroad, especially the Holy Synods of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Indian Malankara Orthodox Church, and other sister Orthodox Churches, as well as the World Council of Churches, international spiritual institutions, development and Charity organizations who are partners of the Church expressed their solidarity through various statements disapproving and condemning this illegal act and violations.

Obviously, the Holy Church has never lived without challenges since its foundation by the Holy Blood of Christ, as testified by the holy books and historical records. During the time of the Apostles – the false brethren; and during the time of the scholars – various heretics were rising time and again and posed various challenges against it. As it is observed today, the holy Church is still being tested by external and internal enemies.

Consequently, the Synod understands that the incident of January 22, 2023 in South West Shewa Diocese, Sodo Dacu District, Haro Be’ale Weld Church, under the leadership of abba Sawiros, is one of the most unfortunate, un-synodical, scandalous, illegal and clear violations of the Church canon. The ordination of the 26 monks by abba Sawiros illegally and assigning them to an already assigned dioceses which are being led by Archbishops is more than a violation of the Church’s canon as it divides the Church, it destroys and erodes the unity of the country, it insights violence between believers, the clergy, the scholars and the youth and eventually destabilizes peace of the country and leads to blood-shedding conflict.

Hence,

Consequently, based on the apostles canon stated in the third epistle of Clement of Rome, Article 25, “The bishops in every province should know who their leader is. Let them make him a father. Let they do not do anything small or mundane without his permission. And let he does not do anything without the permission of the bishops, if he does minor things, he has no curse. Let they live together as a discussants of one heart and speaker of one word.” For the reason that these lawless, individuals have abrogated this canon of the Apostles;

Again, the Apostles in the 44th article said, “Let the Arch-Bishops (Patriarch) examine the work they do and the orders they hold in the countries where the bishops are appointed; and if he found them having done an unworthy work, and commanded an unworthy order, he would obey the order that was revealed to him. For he is the appointed father of all and they are his children…” And for the reason that the individuals who committed this non-canonical ordination illegally violated the sovereign authority of the Holy Synod and the pontifical rights of the Holy Patriarch;

Whereas, the ordination to priesthood is concerned, as the Word of God says, “No one takes glory for himself unless he is called by God like Aaron” (Hebrews 5:4), the ordination starting from the deaconship to the patriarchy requires vocation and to be called by God first. And it is vibrant that there is a visibly defined canonical procedure and biblical criteria even for those who select and coordinate, let alone for the candidates, as Saint Paul explained it in detail in his letter. (Tim. 3, 10, Titus, 1, 5-7; Fitha Negest/Collections of Canons in the Church Article 4)

Whereas the ordination of bishops is concerned, the Holy Apostles codified in the third Epistle Clement, “A bishop is ordained with the consent of the people and bishop of his country. Let three, if not two bishops ordain him.” This is done in a very rare condition (Extreme Critical Conditions) where there is no Holy Synod, in the absence of a Patriarch, so that the faithful do not disperse. However, citing this canon for an illegal act defying the sovereign authority of the Actively working Holy Synod chaired by the Holy Patriarch and led by the Holy Spirit is considered as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and should be emphasized that it is an unforgivable sin as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ taught us in the Holy Gospel. (Matthew 12:30-32, Luke 12:10 Mark 3:28-29, 1 Timothy 1:13). The action of these individuals is to subvert the legitimate Ethiopian Holy Synod led by the Holy Spirit, undermine the structure of the great Holy Church, and destroy the legal institution. Therefore, it is condemned and anathematized by the Holy Synod as an act of sedition;

The Canon of the 318 Fathers gathered in Nicene (Article 9) concerning the ordination of bishops, stated, “If one wants to be ordained as a bishop, if the people of the country allow him, but the bishop of the country does not allow him, he should not be ordained as a bishop. If he is found ordained violating this, the Holy Synod will excommunicate him and his ordination will remain [unfulfilled] or invalid”. (Nullification)

The said ordination which is made by this time outside the canon of the Church and boldly violating it defying the sovereign authority of the ancient, apostolic, national and international Holy Orthodox Tewahedo Church is primarily condemned by the holy fathers.

Besides, when bishops are ordained, the canon and the Church do not allow anyone to go to the Political leaders support without the permission of the Holy Patriarch. Hence it is decided that, “No one from the Episcopates and bishops shall go to the king’s house without the permission of the Archbishop. He who violates this, the Holy Synod will anathematize him. He who broke this order, the Holy Synod will excommunicate him.” Hence, today, since any activity outside the [recognition and permission] of the Holy Synod and the Holy Patriarch is illegal, so they are excommunicated and anathematized by the Holy Synod.

As it is written in the canon of the Church, “…everyone should keep his title; the title of someone should not be transferred to another. Should anyone violate this, the Holy Synod excommunicates him.” Accordingly, these illegal individuals were condemned by the Holy Synod;

Whereas it violates Article 16 number 30 of the Constitution of the Church which stipulates that the authority to decide whether to elect and appoint bishops is that of the Holy Synod;

Whereas Article 37 number 1 of the Constitution of the Church stipulates that the election of bishops will only take place when it is trusted and decided by the General Assembly of the Holy Synod;

Whereas Article 18 number 5 of the Constitution of the Church stipulates that a bishop who violates the religious rules and canons of the Church will be removed from membership;

The Holy Synod excommunicated them for violating all these [canons and constitutions of the Church]!

Eventually, the illegal activity is not acceptable as it is condemned by the law of both man and God, and is deviation from the fundamental belief, and is not accepted by the canon of the Holy Fathers, the constitution and the administration of the Church in general.

Therefore,

  1. According to Article 5 number 138 of the fithe Menfesawi (Collections of canons of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church), it is confirmed that on 22nd of January, 2023, in Haro Be’aleweld Church, Sodo Dacu District, and Southwest Showa Diocese.

1st. Abba Sawiros

2nd. Abba Eustathius

3rd. Abba Zena Markos have declared through the social and broadcast Medias that they have ordained 26 bishops and established a Synod with the authority not given to them in violation of the Church’s canon. Hence, they committed an act of treason and ‘religious sectarianism’ by deceiving the Christian faithful living in the country and abroad, the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church led by the Holy Spirit, excommunicated, anathematized and separated them by revoking the full priesthood (from deacon-hood until episcopacy) given to them from the Church.

Thus:

  1. As of today, 26th of January, 2023, they should be called by their former secular names since their authority and titles are revoked by the General Assembly of the Holy Synod.
  2. The Holy Synod excommunicated and separated them from the Church so that they would not receive any spiritual service from our Church whether in life or death.
  3. It has decided to assign Archbishops on the following dioceses that were led by these individuals who are excommunicated by the General Assembly of the Holy Synod:-
  4. For the Diocese of Southwest Shoa
  5. For Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda Diocese

iii. For Ilu-Ababora and Beno Bedele Diocese

  1. For Minnesota and Surrounding Diocese in North America
  2. For the Diocese of Guji, West Guji and Borna Liban
  3. For the Monastery of Meskaye Hezunan Medhanealem

However, the Holy Synod announces that the doors of mercy (repentance) of the Holy Church are always open and they we will be accepted according to the canon of the Church if these individuals mentioned above by name repent and ask for forgiveness;

  1. Concerning the 25 monks who are misguided by individuals who defy the authority of the Holy Synod and have broken the canon of the Church, and are illegally presumed to be ordained as bishops have violated the canon of the Church. As a result, the full clerical authority given to them starting from the deaconship is revoked and they are excommunicated by the General Assembly of the Holy Synod as of the 26th of January 2023.
  2. One among of these individuals, named as Abba Tsegazeab Adugna, understood his wrongdoing and regretted the violation of the canon and his illegal behavior and petitioned an apology to the Church before the emergency General Assembly of the Holy Synod. The Holy Synod accepted his apology and declares that the Church’s doors of mercy are always open for the remaining individuals to welcome their petition according to the canon of the Church if they wish to do so.
  3. The Patriarchate Head office (the Head Quarter) is ordered to undertake the necessary follow-ups and administrative measures on individuals who are working in the offices of the Patriarchate through the local Churches in and outside the country, and those who are directly or indirectly involved in this anti-Church and un-canonical act.
  4. In consideration of the illegality and violation of canon that history will not forgive; the Holy Synod strongly urges all institutions and individuals who have been and are supporting this historical ruthless violation of the canon; in financially and in any other way to refrain from this illegal behavior. The Holy Synod instructs [the Office of the Patriarchate] to pursue any legal process that deem necessary if they are unwilling to abstain from their illegal act.
  5. Ecclesial officials at all levels, Church scholars, monks and clergy, Sunday School youth, the various spiritual associations of the Church and the laity are urged to closely monitor and control the institutions and individuals that support this illegal behavior in addition to protecting the security of the Church.
  6. The Holy Synod decides that it is strictly forbidden for these individuals to be called in the name of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, adding to its name or reducing part of it, before or after, taking it partially or in full; using its logo and address; using the sacred objects including liturgical vestments and sacred texts that are used for worship and liturgical services; and instructs the officials of the Church and the government at all levels to follow up on this issue. Furthermore, any individual and institution found violating this decision will be prosecuted according to the appropriate laws both in and outside the country. The Holy Synod has decided that international and national legal experts be assigned to enforce the law and that everything should be done through the office of the Seat of Patriarchate
  7. The Holy Synod has decided to appoint a committee by the Standing permanent Holy Synod to conduct a detailed study and propose a solution to the current problems.
  8. It has been decided that awareness meetings, forums (workshops) should be held for all respective government officials at all levels; And starting with His Excellency the Prime Minister of the FDRE, and that this decision should be delivered to them with an official letter.
  9. It has been decided that awareness-raising campaigns be held regarding this decision of the General Assembly of the Holy Synod for the servants and believers of the Church in the country and abroad, and hold a major campaign and awareness creation forum at the national level in the presence of the heads of the central diocese.
  10. The Holy Synod has ordered that a letter be sent to governmental or non-governmental institutions located in and outside the country; Sister Churches/ Oriental Orthodox Churches, Eastern Orthodox Churches; The Roman Catholic Church and other Churches; World Council of Churches, the All African Conference Churches and all other Churches and religious assemblies confirming that these excommunicated individuals do not represent the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and do not have any work relationship.
  11. One of the deceitful information given by these individuals is to pretend that their evil actions are the question of the Oromo people. However, this action does not represent the Oromo people who love their religion/faith and have the wisdom to respect their ancestors. Hence, it should be known to all that they did this to satisfy their thirst for authority. In addition, the Holy Synod decided to give an appropriate answer to the false rumors they spread.

We convey our gratitude to all who have shown your solidarity by being on the side of the Holy Church releasing statements, and doing your part to uphold the unity and sovereignty of the Church. The Holy Synod further calls upon you to remain on our side with your prayers and virtuous solidarity.

The Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

January 26, 2023

Addis Ababa Ethiopia

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