ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopians say their goodbyes to the late Patriarch of the Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Abune Merkorios, on Saturday.
Abune Merkorios passed away on March 4, 2022 in a hospital after weeks of treatment for undisclosed illness. He was 84 years of age.
The farewell ceremony, held at Addis Ababa’s Meskel Square, was attended by followers of the church, religious fathers and senior government officials including Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and House speaker Tagesse Chafo.
Speaking at the event, Patriarch Abune Mathias said Abune Merkoriso passed on “from this world into eternal life.”
Mathias said the late Merkorios made great contributions to his country in general and the church he served for whole of his life, in particular.
He also described the late patriarch as a great religious father who endured adversity while urging his fellow religious leaders to follow suit and pray for peace and unity for their country.
On his part, Prime Minister Abiy said the late Patriarch tirelessly taught the people of Ethiopia to live together with love, peace and harmony.
The Patriarch served his country and people, he said, noting “losing his holiness is a great grief to all of Ethiopians.”
Abiy lauded his holiness for his contribution to the unification of the two synods of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church that had been separated for more than 26 years.
The late Patriarch’s funeral will be held at Holy Trinity Cathedral Church on Sunday in the presence of dignitaries.
Religious leaders from the Oriental Churches and other Churches from various countries of the world are expected to attend the funeral.
– Reunification –
Abuna Merkorios was chosen as the fourth Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox church after the death of Abuna Tekle Haymanot in May, 1988. He was, however, forced to abdicate after the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) in 1991, which resulted in the church splitting.
The following year the church in Addis Ababa elected Patriarch Paulos replacing the exiled Patriarch Merkorios.
Many objected to the move, saying the role of the patriarch was held for life. Abune continued to serve a rival synod established in the US, where he lived most of his life in exile.
He came back from his 27-year exile in 2018 after Prime Minister Abiy persuaded him to reconcile with the rival faction of the church.
After the reunification, the Orthodox church had two patriarchs – Abune Merkorios, who was responsible for the spiritual aspect of the church, and Abune Mathias who replaced Paulos following his death in 2012 was in charge of its day-to-day affairs.
– EM/News Agencies