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The Eritrean Orthodox Church

Patriarch Philippos died on September 18, 2002, at the age of 101. On December 4, 2002, the Holy Synod elected Abune Yacob as his successor. He passed away on December 2, 2003. The Holy Synod then elected Bishop Antonios of Hamasiye as Patriarch on March 4, 2004. In August 2005 the Eritrean Government intervened in the church’s affairs by limiting the powers of the patriarch and designating a layman, Yoftahe Dimetros, to oversee it. Shortly thereafter, the Holy Synod charged Antonios with heresy and removed him from office. Antonios was then placed under house arrest. In January 2006 Antonios sent a letter to the Holy Synod in which he denied the charges against him and excommunicated several synod members as well as Mr. Dimetros, stating that their actions and those of the government violated the constitution and bylaws of the Eritrean Orthodox Church. Nevertheless, on April 19, 2007, the Holy Synod elected Abune Dioskoros as new patriarch. The other Oriental Orthodox Churches as well as the Catholic Church continued to recognize Antonios as Patriarch.

The Orthodox make up about 30% of Eritrea’s 4.9 million inhabitants. About 60% are Sunni Muslim, 5% Catholic and 2% Protestant. Most of the Orthodox belong to the Tigrinya ethnic group centered in the central and southern highlands. Today the Eritrean Orthodox Church has approximately 1,500 churches, 22 monasteries, and 15,000 priests.

Eritrean Orthodox faithful in Great Britain are under the pastoral care of Bishop Markos, who resides in London and has responsibility for the diaspora. St. Michael’s Eritrean Orthodox Church, 78 Edmund St, London, SE5 7NR, became the first Eritrean Orthodox church in Europe when it was consecrated in 1997. There is an Eritrean Orthodox Diocese of North America that includes 18 parishes in the United States and one in Canada. They are now split into two groups, one that continues to recognize Patriarch Antonios, and another that follows Bishop Sinoda in Washington, DC, who was appointed by the government-controlled church in Eritrea.

Location: Eritrea
Head: Patriarch Antonios I (born 1927, elected 2004)
Title: Patriarch of Eritrea
Residence: Asmara, Eritrea
Membership: 1,470,000

Last Modified: 26 Jun 2007

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