|His Holiness Abune
|Patriarch of the
Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church
|Church||Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church|
|Appointed||23 April 2004|
|Successor||Abune Dioskoros (DISPUTED)|
|Previous post||Abbot of Debre Tsege Abuna Andrewes|
Antonios was born in 1927 in the town of Hembrti, north of Asmara in the province of Hamisien. His father was a priest and at the age of five, he entered the monastery of Debre Tsege Abuna Andrewes. He became a monk and later was ordained priest in 1942. He was elected abbot in 1955.
When the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church sought autocephaly, he was one of five abbots of monasteries that went to Egypt to be ordained as bishop so that the church would have its own Holy Synod. He was ordained as Bishop Antonios of Hamasien-Asmara on 19 June 1994 in Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, Cairo at the hands of His Holiness Shenouda III, Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. Following the death of Abune Yacob in 2003, he was elected Patriarch in popular elections which were unanimously endorsed by the Holy Synod of the church. His ordination and enthronement as Patriarch took place on 23 April 2004 in Asmara, at the hands of Pope Shenouda III, assisted by Eritrean and Coptic Orthodox Metropolitans and Bishops. He was the first Patriarch of Eritrea to have been enthroned who had not previously been a Bishop in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
Conflicts with the government and removal from office
Patriarch Antonios protested increasing interference by the Eritrean government, resulting in tensions. In January 2005 the Patriarch's annual Nativity message was not broadcast or televised and the Eritrean Holy Synod met on 6–7 August 2005 with the purpose of removing all executive authority from the Patriarch. Among points of contention was his reluctance to excommunicate 3,000 members of the Medhane Alem, an Orthodox Sunday School movement and his demands for release of imprisoned Christians. The Holy Synod allowed him to officiate at church services, but prohibited him from having any administrative role in church affairs.
At first, the government denied asking for his removal pointing to the fact that he was performing certain ceremonial functions. But it kept him under virtual house arrest at his residence in Asmara. A church delegation travelled to Egypt on 25 July 2005 to seek the support of Pope Shenouda, in deposing and replacing him as Patriarch. His Holiness Pope Shenouda III refused to recognise this as a canonical act and urged the faithful to pray for Patriarch Antonios who "is passing through a great tribulation. We hope that the Lord will rescue him".
On 13 January 2006, a secret session of the Holy Synod was held in Asmara which formally removed the Patriarch from office and his detention was tightened to ensure he remained incommunicado. On 20 January 2007, two priests accompanied by government security agents entered the Patriarch's residence and confiscated his personal pontifical insignia. On 27 May 2007, he was replaced as Patriarch by Abune Dioskoros a move supported by the then Eritrean government.
Patriarch Antonios remains under house arrest and strict surveillance and held without charge. He reportedly seldom receives visitors, including relatives, and has no telephone service. His removal at the behest of the Eritrean government was denounced by the other Oriental Orthodox Churches who have refused to recognize Abune Dioskoros as legitimate Patriarch of Eritrea.
- "Orthodox patriarch of Eritrea sacked". 1 February 2006. Retrieved 5 February 2007.
- Plaut, Martin (28 June 2007). "Christians protest over Eritrea". BBC News. Retrieved 12 October 2009.
- "Eritrea Hides Ex-Orthodox Head from U.S. Officials". 30 January 2008. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
|Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church