Abune Mathias elected as the new patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOTC)

The newly elected patriarch Abune Mathias
Photo courtesy of The Sheba Post

Addis Ababa, 28 February 2013: Archbishop His Eminence Abune Mathias of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church in Jerusalem is elected the sixth Patriarch of the Church on Thursday, 28 February 2013, in Addis Ababa.

According to official results, Archbishop Abune Mathias received 500 out of 806 votes. Whereas, the other four candidates Abune Yoseph, Abune Mathewos, Abune Hiskiel and Abune Elsa got 98, 98, 70 and 39 votes, respectively. One ballot paper was disqualified. A total of 806 voters, including Archbishops, department heads of the patriarchate office, ancient monasteries and churches, clergy, representative’s of Church members and Sunday school students voted for the election of the new Patriarch. Delegations from Oriental Orthodox Churches, the World Council of Churches, the elderly, among others, observed the election.

Abune Matias, currently serving as Archbishop of the church in Jerusalem, accepted the appointment. Abune Matthias, 71, has lived abroad for over 30 years, initially fleeing Ethiopia following a military coup by Mengistu Hailemariam in 1974. He has since travelled throughout Europe and North America, and will now settle in Ethiopia to serve as the patriarch of the Church. His Eminence is an ethnic Tigrean.

The enthronement of Abune Mathias as the sixth Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church would be held on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa, which tens of thousands of people are expected to attend. A high level Indian Church delegation will attend the consecration ceremony of the newly elected Patriarch of Ethiopia. The Catholicos of the East and the Patriarch of India, His Holiness Baselius Paulose II – the Supreme Pontiff of the Indian Orthodox Church of the East - will have personal audience with the new Patriarch tomorrow.

Abune Mathias will be known as 6th Patriarch and Catholicos of Ethiopia, Ichege of the See of St. Tekle Haymanot and Archbishop of Axum. Ethiopian Church heads are referred to as Abune, which means “father” in Ethiopia’s local language.

The Ethiopian Church was administratively part of the Coptic Orthodox Church until 1959, when it was granted its own Patriarch by the Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of All Africa, Cyril VI. About 63 percent of Ethiopia’s 83 million people are Christian, with the majority following the Orthodox faith, according to official figures. The Ethiopian Church has a membership of between 40 and 45 million, the majority of whom live in Ethiopia, and is thus the largest of all Oriental Orthodox churches.
Patriarch-elect Abune
Mathias of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Photo courtesy of Boaz Rottem

The office of the patriarch has been vacant since August after His Holiness Abune Paulos died at age 76. His Holiness had served as head of the Orthodox Church in Ethiopia since 1992.

Ethiopia is home to some of Africa‘s oldest Orthodox churches, including a cluster of 11 ancient rock-hewn churches in Lalibela which are designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Patriarch Catholicoi of All Ethiopia, since 1959

  1. His Holiness Abune Basilios (1959–1970)
  2. His Holiness Abune Theophilos (1971–1976), executed in 1979
  3. His Holiness Abune Takla Haymanot (1976–1988)
  4. His Holiness Abune Merkorios (1988–1991), Abuna until the EPRDF's triumph over the Derg in Addis Ababa;(Abdicated, and lives in the United States with his followers claiming that he was forced to leave)
  5. His Holiness Abune Paulos (1991–2012)
caretaker patriarch His Eminence Abune Nathanaƫl, archbishop of Arsi, as caretaker patriarch (2012-2013)


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