CSW Protests against the Detention of Eritrea’s Church Head
The 85-year-old head of Eritrea’s Orthodox Church, a severe diabetic, has been under house arrest since 2006. CSW is protesting for his freedom.
06/15/2012 Eritrea (CSW)-The 85-year-old head of Eritrea’s Orthodox Church, a severe diabetic, has been under house arrest since 2006. CSW is protesting for his freedom.
In 2007 CSW reported that the patriarch, Abune Antonios, was illegally removed from his office and replaced by a government appointee. Leading up to this, Patriarch Antonios had increasingly resisted the government’s unwarranted intervention in church affairs, for example, by refusing to close down a renewal movement that had attracted thousands of young people.
The personal gifts that were given to him by the late Pope Shenouda – the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of which the Eritrean Orthodox Church is a part – at his ordination were seized and given to his illegal replacement. The patriarch was then detained in an unknown location by Eritrean security forces.
January 2005 – Patriarch Antonios, the ordained head of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, records his annual Christmas message, which the state media subsequently refuse to air. Leading up to this, in 2004 Patriarch Antonios had objected to the detention of three Orthodox priests who were part of the Medhane Alem movement . Furthermore, he refused to close down the thriving renewal movement, which was attracting thousands of youngsters.
August 2005 – Patriarch Antonios is relieved of administrative duties. Confined to a ceremonial role, and in contravention of the church’s constitution, the Eritrean authorities appoint a government administrator, Mr Yoftahe Dimetros, as administrator in the patriarch’s place.
January 2006 – Following an illegally convened Holy Synod, the patriarch is forced out of office and effectively confined to his official residence. His car is confiscated, further limiting his movements.
May 2007 – The Eritrean government forcibly removes Patriarch Antonios from his official residence and transport him to an undisclosed location. According to sources, he was forcibly evicted from his official residence by members of the Eritrean security forces at 5am, Sunday 27 May. He is illegally replaced as patriarch by Bishop Dioscoros, who is approved by the Eritrean government but unrecognised outside of the country.