Abune Paulos was one of the most prominent Patriarchs of the ‘Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church’. His religious journey started at an early age, when he joined the ‘Abba Garima Monastery’. He then carried on his religious work as a bishop and was later given the title of an archbishop for his consistent hard work. However, his work as a religious figure was not easy as the ruling communist party did not agree to the working of the Church, and as a result, he, along with his bishop companions had to suffer imprisonment. Abune Paulos went into exile himself and carried out various religious works in the United States. On his return to Ethiopia, the patriarch tried to help the people in all possible ways and even tried to negotiate between two nations who were at war, to bring peace. His activities towards bringing peace since then have been widely appreciated. Though he was a religious leader, the patriarch did not deny the existence of science and supported the use of vaccinations to prevent diseases. He even advocated the use of antiretroviral medicine alongside spiritual remedies for people affected by HIV/AIDS. However, this religious man held strict traditional views towards homosexual people and wanted the law to restrict their activities. To know more about the life, works, and achievements of Abune Paulos, read on
Childhood & Early Life
Abune Paulos was born on 3rd November 1935, in a market town called Adwa, located in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. He was originally christened Gebre Medhin Wolde Yohannes.
His family had a close connection with the ‘Abba Garima Monastery’ and he joined the monastery as a deacon trainee at the age of six. Later, he turned into a monk and then a priest.
Paulos attended the ‘Theological College of the Holy Trinity’ located in the Kebena region of Addis Ababa, where he imbibed religious and secular values.
He gained further theological training at ‘St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary’ in the United States. Later, he pursued his doctoral studies at the ‘Princeton Theological Seminary’.
In 1974, he was called by Abune Tewophilos, the then Patriarch of the ‘Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church’, and he went back to Ethiopia after Haile Selassie, the Emperor of the nation was overthrown in a revolution.
Then he was made a bishop, along with four others and given the name Abune Paulos. However, these bishops were chosen without the consent of the newly constructed communist government of the ‘Derg’ committee. This resulted in the detention of five bishops, and finally the execution of Patriarch Abune Tewophilos.
In 1983, Paulos was released from prison along with his fellow bishops. A year later, he moved to ‘Princeton’ to continue his doctoral degree and stayed in exile during the period.
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Even when he was in exile, the Third Patriarch of the ‘Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church’, Abune Takla Haymanot, promoted Paulos from the rank of a bishop to that of an Archbishop.
The Archbishop returned to Ethiopia after the ‘Derg’ politician Mengistu’s, regime ended and the ‘Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front’ of Meles Zenawi, established the government in 1991.
Eventually, the Patriarch Abune Merkorios, who was closely associated with the communist ruler, was expelled from his position by the ruling body of the Church.
In 1992, Merkorios and his followers went into exile and formed a rival synod in the US. During the same time, Paulos was chosen as the new Patriarch of Ethiopia.
As a Patriarch, he became a guide to millions of Orthodox Christians of Ethiopia enthusiastically. He played a pivotal role in helping various orthodox churches of the world in being associated with one another. He was also one among the seven presidents of the ‘World Council of Churches’.
In 1993, Eritrea established itself as an independent nation, and Paulos gave consent to the ‘Eritrea Orthodox Church’ to move out of Ethiopia.
This patriarch empathized with the people who suffered during the rule of Mengistu. He also participated in the funerals of the various people who died mysteriously during the latter’s regime.
He advocated the significance of child vaccination and even advised that the masses should be taught about it.
The Patriarch also recommended that those HIV/AIDS affected people who wish for a spiritual cure, should also be given an antiretroviral medicine along holy water. However, he maintained that chastity and monogamy should be followed as preventions, and did not support the use of condoms.
He played the role of a mediator, to bring an end to the border war between the countries Ethiopia and Eritrea. The battle had claimed thousands of lives, and the patriarch’s efforts in resolving the conflict was well-appreciated.
Awards & Achievements
The ‘United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNCHR) honoured him with the ‘Nansen Medal’ award for his peace and philanthropic endeavours.
He was an Honorary President of ‘Religions for Peace,’ which is an organization formed by religious representatives from around the world, to work for the cause of peace.
Personal Life & Legacy
He held a traditional view towards homosexuals, and in the year 2008, he was one among the Ethiopian religious persons who pressed the legislators to restrict the homosexual actions.
On 16th August 2012, this prominent Patriarch of Ethiopia breathed his last and the reason behind his death is not clear. Many are of the opinion that he died of a heart attack.
He was the first one belonging to the ethnic group ‘Tigray’ to become the Patriarch of the ‘Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church’