Eritrean Orthodox Diocese Supports Catholic Bishops’ Letter

The Eritrean Orthodox Church’s Statement (Translated into English by Semere T Habtemariam)

In a statement issued on the occasion of Eritrea’s Martyrs’ Memorial Day, June 20th, the Arch Diocese of North America of the Eritrean Orthodox Church expressed its unequivocal support for the Year-of-Faith’s Pastoral Letter of the four bishops of the Eritrean Catholic Church.

It is to be recalled that Abune Antonious, the legitimate patriarch of the Church, was dethroned from his papacy for his refusal to accept the regime’s interference in the affairs of the Church. In a letter dated January 13th, 2006, the patriarch attributed his removal from office to his “longstanding belief and vehement stand that it is illegal and unacceptable for Mr. Yoftahe Dimetros, a layperson of absolutely no clerical credentials, to become the highest administrator of our Church.”

Yaftahe Dimetros is the son of the notorious patron-saint of “andnetism” and one who proudly served the Derge as ambassador to Israel till Eritrea’s independence. He was brought back to Eritrea by Isaias to do exactly what his father did before him for the king of Ethiopia: give him the Orthodox Church in a silver platter.

When the government controlled synod passed a resolution that removed the “the duly consecrated Patriarch;” abune Antonious denounced it: “The reasons for your actions cannot be the result of your ignorance of the Canon of the church; it is rather because you have become a law unto yourselves. There is one thing that you need to be reminded of: No one can be above the law. Whosoever tries to trample the law underfoot will himself end up being trampled over by the law.” (The abune’s letter can be found at

His Grace, Bishop Mekarious of the Eritrean Orthodox Church Arch Diocese of North America, was one of the first religious leaders who attributed the plight of our youth to the mismanagement of the country. In a sermon known by many as “intezey tdefani men metsdefeni: I would not have fallen down the cliff if you did not push me,” the bishop held the regime responsible for all the tragedies afflicting our nation and people. Three years later, in a public mourning held in Atlanta concerning the unforgettable Lampedusa tragedy, the bishop further elaborated on the sad state of our affairs. For his Lampedusa sermon, click here to listen:

It therefore comes as no surprise that the Eritrean Orthodox Arch Diocese of North America is the first to express its strong support of the Pastoral Letter of the Four Bishops of the Eritrean Catholic Church. It is my hope that the rest will follow this great example. This is the moment where every other Eritrean religious group and denomination should strongly and unequivocally support the courageous and unprecedented act of the four Eritrean Catholic Bishops . This is the strongest moral criticism the regime has faced from inside the country, and it is only right that we build upon this momentum. As long as a voice of righteousness calls us from the wilderness we need to respond in kind regardless of whether that voice speaks with a Catholic, Muslim, Protestant, or Tewahdo accent. Let’s show unity of purpose and unity of righteousness..

As part of “What can I do to help” commitment, I’ve also taken it upon myself to translate the Tigrinya statement of the Arch Diocese of North America of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church. I hope I have done some justice to their work. I am responsible for any mistakes or misrepresentation of their message; and as a final arbiter of meaning I encourage you all to read the Tigrinya version at:

Semere T Habtemariam.

Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church
Arch Diocese of North America

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails (Hab 1:4).

Statement of the Arch Diocese of North America On
The Current State of Our Church and Country

When Israel was void of the rule-of-law, justice was lost, and the people were aggrieved; the prophet Habakkuk, in tears and lamentation, conveyed God’s message to the people of Israel: “Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (Hab 1:4). Since our current situation is getting worse; likewise we find these words very relevant and applicable to us Eritreans.

After a long period of time, the Eritrean people brought justice inside their homes (from outside); having achieved justice they breathed a sigh of relief, but only to see her buried inside their own homes. Today the Eritrean people find themselves in a situation no less serious than previous miseries, unbridled oppressions, humiliation-degradations, aggressions and exiles.

This people deserve to enjoy all the things they were deprived of during their colonization: peace-prosperity, respect, freedom and justice; and today contrary to expectation they find themselves under a shadow of extinction. A country that should have been administered by the rule of law and the pillar of the truth, finds itself the mere possession of a few who cater to their whims and fancies. Because the supremacy of the rule-of-law has been stamped on, Eritreans are forced, against the desires of their heart, to flee their country into exile; and have fallen victims to human and organ trafficking where they are treated lower than animals and traded like articles of merchandise; where their bodies are cut open and their body parts harvested to be traded to the highest bidder.

Unfortunately nobody listened to his words at the time, but His Holiness the Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church, Abune Antonious, who recognized the impending disaster early on, relayed his message to the people in an open letter that concerns all; and duly warned, “When you stamp on the law; the law would come back to stamp on you.” Today, with the day-to-day events, the truths of these words are being lived in front of our eyes. Because the law has been stamped on; we have all been stamped on.

Our county is being deserted and depopulated; its people are fleeing in droves. Those Eritreans, men of the cloth and the faithful, had advised those who were transgressing the law to change their ways and do the right thing, for their transgressions has serious ramifications; but their advice fell on deaf ears. To the contrary, they had been subjected to treatments devoid of any compassion; even his holiness the Patriarch, Abune Antonious, was not spared; and his fate has become confinement.

In our prevailing critical and alarming conditions, where our survival is at risk and we are facing extinction, four Eritrean Catholic Bishops, in their Year-of-Faith Pastoral Letter, “Where is your brother?” have conveyed a timely message that has reached many. Their message is in line with and supports the truth his Holiness Patriarch Abune Antonious, and his Grace Bishop Mekarious of the Arch Diocese of North America, Europe and the Middle East had said before the crisis have gotten out of hand; and hence we express our support to their message that has the peoples’ and country’s interest at heart—salvation. Every person with a sense of morality must raise and address the important question of “Where is your brother?” and seek solutions.

Today we commemorate the martyrs who fell in line of duty for our sake; they have sacrificed their most precious lives because their hopes and aspirations were to see their people live in peace and prosperity. “Victory to the masses,” was the slogan they uttered right before their martyrdom; it was to wish the masses who survived them victory. “Victory of the masses” can only be realized when the people fully enjoy their God-given freedoms, and freely and without any fear and coercion, work to develop and take care of the land that God has given them. In other words, it is to own a country that is guided by the rule of law, justice and fairness.

Dear Eritrean people;

On the occasion we commemorate our martyrs, we call upon you, on behalf of our holy Church, to shoulder your responsibility and do your part so peace and prosperity can reign, our miseries can end, and we can have a country that fears God and respects people, and it is administered in justice and fairness.

May the Lord rest the soul of our martyrs in peace. Amen!

Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church
Arch Diocese of North America
June 20, 2014

NB: Top image of the incarcerated Abune Antonios


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