Introduction by the translator (Semere T Habtemariam): In the absence of civic associations, communitarian and religious organizations usually fill the gap; and that is the case in Eritrea. The recent pastoral letter of the Catholic Church of Eritrea, the Solidarity letter of the North American Diocese of the Tewahdo Church and now the letter of Excommunication of the Union of the Monasteries of Eritrea are hopeful signs that Eritreans are getting ready for a democratic change. In light of the close relationship Yoftahe Dimetros had enjoyed with the dictator of Eritrea, this is a significant and courageous step by the holy fathers of the Tewahdo Church. What goes for the Tewahdos will go for the nation; they make almost fifty percent of the population; and all democratic change-seekers must appreciate and celebrate these small but historical moments. It is the aggregate effect of these steps that will make Eritrea safe for democracy and democracy safe for Eritrea. This translation, like the previous ones, is a token of my appreciation, admiration and gratitude for these courageous religious and moral leaders who are emboldening the cause of freedom and human dignity.
In the name of the Father, of the Son, of the Holy Spirit
Re: Statement of Excommunication
Spiritual greetings to you.
It is common knowledge that for over ten years, you, the individuals known as Mr. Yoftahe Dimetros Gebremariam and the priest Habtom Russom, have been administrating the Orthodox Tewahdo Church of Eritrea.
It is a truth known to everyone that during your administration, the church that is ancient, Apostolic, Holy and a bastion of peace and unity has been turned into a place of bedlam; its vision distorted; its mission disrupted; and enveloped by a fog of divisiveness which has placed her at a great peril. This is due to your wicked actions which fell outside the parameters of the rule of law. Most of all, you’ve rendered a church that was a source of faith, good moral behavior; a teacher, guide and protector of law and order, and the book of God into a haven for hypocrites and self-serving beasts by destroying its pillars of law and sacraments. You’re the cause and effect of this saddening phenomenon that is exhausting the church and wrecking havoc on it; this is the truth we have been closely following and carefully weighing to determine its veracity. You’re therefore primarily responsible for all the Church’s problems that have gotten worse under your tenure as administrators.
In regard to this, we, the Union of Eritrean Monasteries, have advised and warned you repeatedly, directly and through the Holy Synod and other concerned parties, in writing and verbally, to take quick corrective decisions to nib the problems in the bud. In spite of this, you failed to awaken your conscience and correct the way you conducted and ran your affairs; but you also misconstrued our patience and foolishly led the Church from bad to worse; making her slide backwards like a crab. We’ve become keenly aware and certain that your labor and mission is not to promote the interests and growth of the Church, but to hasten its demise and disintegration so you can serve your own individual interests and gain fame.
Although it is very difficult to compile and list all the damage you’ve incurred and are incurring on the Holy Orthodox Tewahdo Church, but in order to clarify all your misdeeds and transgressions with the hope that it might help you to repent, we’ve classified them into nine categories:
- You’ve repeatedly violated and allowed the violation of the pillars of sacraments, canons and the traditions of the Church;
- You’ve unlawfully taken over and monopolized the powers of the Holy Synod and the papacy of His Holiness the Patriarch, and the Archbishops of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church; and in their name and without their consent, you’ve taken illegal actions;
- You’ve become partial and a cover to the hypocrites; and served them well by providing them solid ground;
- You’ve strangled all aspects of the Church’s apostolic mission and spiritual activities and weakened the Church; labored to weaken and destroy the Union of Monasteries;
- You’ve committed and allowed acts that brought in the causes for strife and dissension and put the unity of the Church in jeopardy;
- You’ve being using your illegally acquired powers and dictatorial administrations to excommunicate and harass innocent servants of the Church, among whom were fathers from the monasteries and without any due process;
- You’ve enabled corruptions and wickedness (contrary to spirituality) to spread within the Church.
In spite of your serious transgressions on the canons, religious traditions, the holy Church and sacredness, we’ve repeatedly reached out and implored you to correct your dictatorial wickedness, but you’ve failed to head our advice. We, the Union of Monasteries, should not allow our limitless patience to be taken for granted; our Church be the play-ground of anyone who dares to come and highjack it as if it doesn’t have owners; we can’t tie our hands behind our backs and watch, for that will be an utter abdication of our most important spiritual obligations. We, therefore, excommunicate you, Mr. Yoftahe Dimetros Gebremariam, and the priest, Habtom Russom Habte, in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, by the authority of Peter and Paul, the three hundred eighteen fathers of the Orthodox faith, Timothy the Apostle, Abune Selema Kessate Birhan and all holy fathers of the monasteries of Eritrea, effective this hour.
On the basis of this, and from this day, October 01, 2014, forward, you, Mr. Yoftahe Dimetros Gebremariam and the priest, Habtom Russom Habte:
- You should not administer, in any form of position or authority, the Holy Orthodox Tewahdo Church of Eritrea;
- You should not participate in the affairs or services of the Holy Church;
- In addition, you both have been relieved: Mr. Yoftahe Dimetros Gebremariam from the community of faith, and priest Habtom Russom Habte from your priestly and deaconess duties; you cannot offer or receive services from the Holy Orthodox Tewahdo Church of Eritrea; you’re separated from the Church by the strong sword of excommunication.
May the Holy God bless our Church and country!
Union of Eritrean Monasteries
Signed by the Abbots of the following six monasteries:
- Monastery Kidus Yohannes
- Debre Bizen
- Gedam Tsaeda Amba Sellassie
- Debre Sina
- Debre Tsege Sef’a
- Debre Libanos
This Letter of Communication is copied to:
- The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Tewahdo Church
- The various offices of the Patriarch
- All the dioceses of the Orthodox Tewahdo Church of Eritrea
- Office of Religious Affairs of the Government of Eritrea