Abune Paulos: Religious leader and peace activist

 

Abune Paulos led the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, which has more than 40 million members, as well as serving on the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches and its Commission on Faith and Order. He was one of seven serving presidents of the WCC. While he was instrumental in interfaith dialogue initiatives, Abune Paulos was vocal in several international platforms, including the World Economic Forum and the World Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders at the United Nations.

Patriarch Dr Abune Paulos was born Gebre Medhin Wolde Yohannes in the northern market town of Adwa in Tigray Province, Ethiopia in 1935. Inevitably, he was influenced by the town's association with the decisive Battle of Adowa, fought in 1896 against Italian troops. Ethiopian soldiers won the battle, making their country the only African nation to thwart European colonialism. However, his birth coincided with the Italian invasion of 1935 and he grew up under the shadow of the Fascist occupation. His family was long associated with the Abba Garima Monastery near the town, and when he was a young boy he entered the monastery as a deacon trainee, eventually taking monastic orders and being ordained a priest.

Known as Abba Gebre Medhin, he continued his education at the Theological College of the Holy Trinity in Addis Ababa under the patronage of Patriarch Abune Tewophilos. In the United States he studied at the St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, New York, and afterwards joined the doctoral programme at the Princeton Theological Seminary.

In 1974, Paulos was by summoned by Patriarch Abune Tewophilos to return to Addis Ababa shortly after the coup that toppled Haile Selassie. The Derg, a committee of junior military officers and enlisted men, had taken advantage of the government's disarray to depose the Emperor on 12 September.

Paulos was anointed bishop, assuming the name and style of "Abune", the honorific title used for a bishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and given responsibility for ecumenical affairs by the Patriarch. But because the Patriarch had named Paulos and four other new bishops without the permission of the Derg communist junta, all five men were arrested, and the Patriarch was eventually executed. Abune Paulos and his fellow bishops were imprisoned until 1983. He returned to Princeton in 1984 to complete his doctoral degree, and was elevated to the rank of Archbishop by Patriarch Abune Takla Haymanot in 1986 while still in exile.

The Soviet-backed regime led by Mengistu Halle Mariam fell in 1991, and a year later the then Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abuna Merkorios, was dethroned in circumstances that remain under dispute; his supporters claimed that he was deposed by the new revolutionary coalition government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and its supporters, while his opponents maintained that the Patriarch abdicated following numerous protests against him by the faithful. His attempt to reverse this was refused by the Holy Synod of the Church, which authorised a new Patriarchal election. Abune Paulos was elected in 1992, and Abune Merkorios and his supporters went into exile, establishing a rival synod in the US. The enthronement of Abune Paulos as Patriarch is recognised by all the canonical Orthodox Christian Churches.

Among Paulos's achievements was the initiative which led to the series of peace meetings between Ethiopian and Eritrean religious leaders between 1998 and 2000, an attempt to bring peace to the two countries in response to their long and bitter long border war. Patriarch Paulos and the Orthodox Church were extensively involved in the support of war-displaced and drought-hit Ethiopians, making the Church one of the major relief organisations in the country.

Abune Paulos served as an Honorary President of Religions for Peace, the world's largest and most representative multi-religious coalition, advancing common action among the world's religious communities. The WCC General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, commented, "His role in promoting interfaith dialogue in Ethiopia and beyond is a continuing legacy for the churches. He highlighted the concerns of women and youth, especially in regard to HIV and Aids."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, also paid tribute, saying, "He played a unique role in reviving and strengthening his church after a period of prolonged crisis and much suffering. The Ethiopian Church is now seen as a major presence in international Christianity, rising to the new challenges of modern Africa.'

Gebre Medhin Wolde Yohannes (Patriarch Dr Abune Paulos), religious leader: born Adwa, Tigray, Ethiopia 3 November 1935; died Addis Ababa 16 August 2012.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Accounts Receivable / Accounts Payable Assistant - Central Lond

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Accounts Receivable / Accounts Payab...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

.Net/ C# Developer/ Analyst Programmer - West London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .NET/ C# .Pr...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on