Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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What is the status of the Ethiopian Orthodox church? Is it part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church?

From ancient times, all bishops in Ethiopia were Egyptian Copts appointed by the Coptic Patriarchate. In the early 20th century, the Ethiopian Church began to press for greater autonomy and the election of native Ethiopian bishops. In 1929 four native Ethiopian bishops were ordained to assist the Coptic Metropolitan. In 1951, an assembly of clergy and laity elected an Ethiopian, Basilios, as Metropolitan, and the autonomy of the Ethiopian Church was established. In 1959 the Coptic Patriarchate confirmed Metropolitan Basilios as the first Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. After the death of Abune Basilios, Abune Tewophilos succeeded him in 1971.

The Ethiopian Orthodoxy was the state religion of the country until the 1974 Marxist revolution, which overthrew the Emperor and placed Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam at the head of government. The new government called the Derg disestablished the Ethiopian Orthodox Church as the state religion, and declared a doctrine of "Equality of Faith" but actively worked against all faiths by advocating communistic atheism. In 1977, the government arrested His Holiness Abune Tewophilos, Patriarch of Ethiopia and imprisoned him. They ordered a general assembly of the church to elect a new Patriarch. The assembly was directed to elect a monk named Abba Melaku as Patriarch of Ethiopia with the name Tekle Haimanot. The Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt announced that the enthronement of a Patriarch while another Patriarch lived, without abdication on his part, or action by the Holy Synod of the Church to remove him was in violation of Canon Law, and refused to recognize Tekle Haimanot as Patriarch of Ethiopia. Ties between the two churches were completely severed. Later that year the communists brutally executed Abune Tewophilos, Patriarch of Ethiopia and buried him in secret.

When Tekla Haimanot died in 1988, the Archbishop of Gondar, Abune Merkorios who became Patriarch of Ethiopia, succeeded him. Then in 1991, the Derg government collapsed, and was replaced by a rebel movement, which assumed authority as a transitional government. Under much controversial actions, Abune Merkorios was removed from the Patriarchate by the Holy Synod. It is unclear whether or not the Patriarch willingly abdicated at first or acted under duress, but when he made an effort to reverse this action, the Synod stepped in and announced it had removed him. It stated that his election had been under the duress and direction of the Communist government, and so his continued occupation of the Patriarchate was not legitimate. A new election was held, and Abune Paulos, once a prisoner of the Derg, and a long time exile in the United States, became Patriarch of Ethiopia. Abune Merkorios then fled Ethiopia and announced from abroad that his removal was illegitimate, and carried out under duress from the new transitional government. He claimed that he was still the legal Patriarch of Ethiopia as canon law did not support the enthronement of a Patriarch while another lived. The Synod however replied that it was entitled under canon law to remove the patriarch that it had done prior to the election of the new Patriarch. Several bishops left Ethiopia to join him in exile and now live mostly in the United States where they proclaimed a parallel synod.

These moves to split the synod, the question of who the legitimate occupant of the Patriarchate should be, and other issues have aroused much argument among the clergy and faithful. Abune Paulos however is the patriarch recognized by the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church inside Ethiopia. The body claiming to be The Holy Synod in Exile continues to uphold Abune Merkorios as Patriarch of Ethiopia. Efforts to avert a permanent schism of the church continue.

Our Coptic Church recognizes only Abune Paulos as the Patriarch of Ethiopia and the legitimate apostolic successor of the See of Ethiopia. The Church in Ethiopia is part of the One Holy Catholic Apostolic church.
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