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Ethiopian Orthodox Church declares internal crisis over after dissidents apologize

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One of the oldest churches in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, has declared that the crisis that rocked it after a number of archbishops established a breakaway synod has been resolved.

The church announced on Facebook on Wednesday night that the three archbishops who convened their synod in the Horn of Africa nation’s largest and most populous region, Oromia, have expressed regret.

The statement stated that “face-to-face discussions have resolved the recent issues within the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.”

The three archbishops were expelled last month as a result of their split, which religious authorities deemed to be against the law. The statement also said that they would be reinstated.

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Hours prior to the announcement, the two parties met with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a member of the Oromo ethnic group who the patriarchate had accused of supporting the dissidents.

At the meeting, Mr. Abiy declared, “This church is strong, and we have decided to bring back the lost sheep.”

About 40% of Ethiopia’s 115 million people belong to the Tewahedo Church, which has been overseen by Patriarch Abune Mathias for a decade. The crisis, which is accompanied by political strife between the federal state and the Oromia region, has severely shaken this church.

According to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, an assault on a church in Oromia at the beginning of February resulted in the deaths of eight people (EHRC).

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In addition, the EHRC condemned “beatings, intimidation, evictions from churches (…) and illegal detentions against individuals and clergy who opposed those who claimed to have formed a “new synod”.”

Asserting that it does not address congregations in Oromia in their native language, the dissenting priests charged the church with discrimination as well as linguistic and cultural hegemony.

The patriarchate disregarded the grievances and at one point issued a call for nonviolent protests, which were ultimately suspended.

The church announced on Wednesday that it would set aside additional funds to expand the Oromo language service not only in Oromia but also in other regions of southern Uganda.

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