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Abuna Theophilos

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Abuna Theophilos, also known as Abune Tewophilos, (1909 - 1977) was the second Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church. He officially succeeded Abuna Basilios in 1971, having assumed the role of acting patriarch upon Abuna Basilios' death in 1970.[1][2][3]

Early life

Abune Tewophilos was born as Meliktu Jenbere in the Parish of Debre Elias, district of Debre Marqos, in Gojjam. His parents were Ato Jenbere Wube and Woizero Zeritu Adelahu. After serving and studying at the Monastery of Debre Elias and at the Addis Alem St. Mary of Zion Monastery, Meliktu Jenbere received monastic orders at the Monastery of Debre Libanos in 1937 and received ordination as a priest from Abuna Abraham, Archbishop of Gojjam. In 1942, not long after Emperor Haile Selassie returned from exile, Abba Meliktu was made administrating priest with the title of Memher of the Mekane Selassie ("House of the Trinity") Monastery in Addis Ababa. Later, with the completion of the Cathedral at this monastery, he was made Dean of this new Holy Trinity Cathedral with the title of Lique Siltanat ("Arch-hierarch").

Then in 1947, Lique Siltanat Abba Meliktu traveled to Cairo with other high clerics to be made bishops by Coptic Pope Yusab, the Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria. At the same time that Abuna Basilios became Ethiopia's first native born Metropolitan Archbishop, Abba Meliktu was anointed as bishop of Harar with the name Abune Tewophilos. After Abune Basilios was made Patriarch of Ethiopia by the Coptic Pope Kyrillos, Abune Tewophilos was elevated by the first Patriarch of Ethiopia to Archbishop of Harrar. Between 1951 and 1970, Abune Tewophilos served as regent and deputy for the ailing Patriarch Abune Basilios, and towards the end of this period was performing in the role of acting Patriarch. Upon the death of Abune Basilios in 1970, Abune Tewophilos was elected on April 7, 1971 and enthroned in Addis Ababa on May 9, 1971 as the second Patriarch of Ethiopia.

Second Patriarch of Ethiopia

Abune Tewophilos presided over a period of administrative reform in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Attempts were made to bring the church into the 20th century by introducing modern educational methods both in the theological schools and in the churches themselves. The Patriarch encouraged ecumenical ties with other Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches, and began the process of raprochment with the Roman Catholic Church. The Patriarch visited the Holy Land, several Orthodox sees in Eastern Europe, and also toured the new Ethiopian Orthodox parishes in the Caribbean basin and North America.

In 1974, revolution toppled the monarchy in Ethiopia, and the Marxist-Leninist Derg regime replaced Emperor Haile Selassie in government. As a result, the Ethiopian Church lost its standing as the state church, and equality of religions was proclaimed, although the new government professed official atheism. While at first staying out of politics, the Patriarch became disillusioned with the Derg's professed ideology, and was horrified with the massacre of the 60 ex-officials of the Emperor's government in November 1974. He was refused permission to receive custody of the Emperor's remains when Emperor Haile Selassie died in August 1975, and was also warned not to conduct public memorial services in his name. The Patriarch is said to have performed a private requiem for the Emperor, with only his own personal staff present in his chapel. The government suspected that the Patriarch was secretly corresponding with the leadership of the monarchist Ethiopian Democratic Union (EDU), which had raised an armed rebellion in northern and western Ethiopia.

With the disestablishment of the church and the severing of ties between church and state, the Patriarch believed that he was entitled to make all decisions concerning the church independent of the authorities, and appointed five new bishops without consulting the Derg. Among these bishops was Abuna Paulos, who would eventually become the fifth Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church. The Derg used this excuse to seize the Patriarch and place him under arrest in May, 1976. Under orders from the Derg, the Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was ordered to elect a new leader, and Patriarch Abuna Tekle Haymanot was elected to lead the church. The Coptic Patriarchate in Egypt, however, angrily denounced the imprisonment of Abuna Tewophilos, and refused to recognize the election and enthronment of the new Abuna. The Coptic Church argued that the removal of Abuna Tewophilos was not canonical as it was done by the government and not by the Synod of the Orthodox Church. As a result, ties between the Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches were severed. Patriarch Abuna Tewophilos was imprisoned, and was brutally executed a year later. Following the fall of the Derg regime, his remains were disinterred, and reburied in full ceremonial state at the Gofa St. Gabriel church which he himself had built in southern Addis Ababa.

References

  1. A Brief Biographical Sketch of the Late Patriarch His Holiness Patriarch Abune Theophilos Ethiopian Orthodox Church
  2. Richard Greenfield (1965). "Ethiopia: A New Political History". F. A. Praeger. "In Ethiopia the (Christian) Church and state are one". 
  3. Giuseppe Alberigo, Joseph A Komonchak (2005), History of Vatican, Peeters Publishers, ISBN 9042916494, http://books.google.com/books?id=HI3fBkPV1pIC&pg=PA535&dq=%22Abuna+Theophilos%22&ie=ISO-8859-1&output=html&sig=Okug5DgjORLYCz3i2bqt0PMfVs4 

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