Thursday, August 16, 2012

In Memoriam: Patriarch Abune Paul of Addis Abeba

Patriarch Abune Paul (Wolde Yohannes) of Addis Abeba has fallen asleep in the Lord at the age of seventy-six. The future patriarch was born Gebre Medhin Wolde Yohannes in 1935 in the well known Ethiopian town of Adwa to a family long associated with Abba Gerima's Monastery near Adwa. As a young boy Gebre Medhin entered the monastery, being trained as a deacon before his tonsure and ordination to the priesthood.

Abba Gebre Medhin went on from Abba Gerima to study theology in Addis Abeba during the patriarchate of Abune Theophilus, who blessed him to continue his theological studies in the United States. Shortly after the revolution that toppled (and later killed) Emperor Haile Silase I Abba Gebre Medhin was recalled to Ethiopia, where he was consecrated to the episcopacy with the name of Paul (P'awlos) and made auxiliary to Abune Theophilus with responsibility for ecumenical affairs.

The emerging Ethiopian Communist regime (the Derg) had not approved the consecration of Abune Paul and the three other men consecrated to the episcopacy that year, and consequently they and the patriarch were imprisoned, where Abune Theophilus reposed and where the new bishops remained until 1983. In that year Abune Paul was released and sent into exile, where he continued his theological studies in the USA. In 1986 the renowned Patriarch Abune Tekle Haimanot elevated Abune Paul to the rank of archbishop.

After the fall of the Derg in 1991 the new Ethiopian government had the Ethiopian Orthodox Holy Synod pressure the ruling patriarch, Abune Mercurius, to retire, after which it elected Abune Paul as Ichege of the Throne of Tekle Haimanot, Archbishop of Axum and Addis Abeba, and Patriarch of Ethiopia. Although the former patriarch later established a schism (the Holy Synod in Exile) in the Ethiopian Diaspora, the vast majority of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church remained united under Abune Paul, who did a great deal of work to expand the Church's outreach and engagement with the modern world and deepen its theological education.

A news release on Patriarch Abune Paul's repose may be found here. May his memory be eternal!

"Remember, O Lord, all our fathers, brothers, and sisters who sleep and rest in the Orthodox Faith, and lay their souls in the bosom of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!" (Anaphora of the Holy Apostles)

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