Eritrean Christians are once again raising concern for the safety and health of the Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Patriarch Antonios. The leader of the church was taken under house arrest in January of 2007 after he repeatedly made comments that the Eritrean Government should not interfere in ecclesiastical affairs. Ever since that time, he has not been allowed to interact with his congregation or speak in public. He was allowed a short day visit to a church service on July 16 of this year, which sparked speculation that he was being released. However, he was quickly taken back into custody and was not allowed to speak at all at the service. We pray for his continued health and safety and that his freedom would be returned soon.
2017-09-19 Eritrea (ChristianTimes) Eritrean Christians have expressed concern regarding the current status of Patriarch Antonios of the Eritrean Orthodox Church who has been under house arrest since January 2007.
The patriarch’s reappearance in public at a church service on 16 July fueled speculations about his imminent release, but the concerns about his freedom were renewed after he failed to deliver the traditional televised Geez New Year blessing on Sept. 11.
According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the patriarch was not permitted to speak when he appeared at the church service in July, despite being overheard asking for the opportunity to address the congregation. He was quickly ushered off the premises and was reportedly put under house arrest at a new location.
As the demands to hear from the church leader grew, a video showing Antonios speaking to “workers of the patriarchate” was released, along with fresh photographs of the patriarch blessing selected visitors. However, questions arose regarding the manner and terms of his release after he failed to deliver the New Year blessing.
The New Year blessing, which marks the start of the year according to the Julian calendar, was delivered last week by Bishop Lukas, a pro-government cleric who is said to harbor ambitions of being the next patriarch.
CSW’s sources have said that the patriarch’s failure to deliver the New Year message “is the biggest sign that he is still not restored fully to his position. Under canon law, if a patriarch is around, a bishop should not give the benediction.” It was also seen as a further confirmation that he was only allowed to reappear in public to offset international criticism by giving the impression of an improvement in human rights, and to ease the path to succession for Lukas.