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The following story shows the government’s response to the attention surrounding the dismissal of the head of the Orthodox Church in Eritrea . The government denies that the patriarch had been dismissed, but church officials have as yet declined to comment on the situation.

The government of Eritrea on Wednesday denied a report on an opposition internet site that it had fired the patriarch of the Orthodox Church. The site,, said the government of the Horn of Africa country had made an attack on religion “one of the cornerstones of its repressive policies.” Information minister Ali Abdu rejected the website as “trash” and said patriarch Abune Antonios was still at his post. He rejected suggestions that the government had interfered in the leadership and administration of the church, the largest Christian body in Eritrea . Abdu said: “Abune Antonios is still the patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Eritrea.” He said: “Our state system is secular, that is, separate from religion. The synod elects the patriarch, it is a sovereign entity, it chooses the job descriptions and job divisions.” The website had over the past week run several stories alleging that the government had sacked Abune for protesting official interference in the running of the church. It said the patriarch “is allowed to lead a spiritual life, but prohibited from playing any administrative roles in the daily operation of the Church. “Abune has dared to challenge the government from interfering in the administration of the patriarchy.” Officials at Orthodox Church in Asmara last week said that Abune was at home and declined to comment on whether he still worked there. Eritrea ‘s 3.5 million population was equally divided among Muslims and Christians.