(Editor’s note: For those who think problems of accountability and transparency in the Church, as well as the role of a free press in Church life are only American concerns, we reprint the following stories from the Yeroo Jimma Times, and Addis Neger concerning the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The Yeroo (Jimma Times) was the first private newspaper published in Qubee in Jimma, the largest city in Southwestern Ethiopia. Addis Neger claims to be the largest metropolitan newspaper website available for the Ethiopian diaspora.
August 6, 2009
$60 Million stolen from Ethiopian Orthodox church account
A member of the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church revealed that at least 60 Million birr (Editor’s note: roughly $5,314,000 USD) is missing from the church’s account. The member, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, told local journalists this financial issue is one of the sources of recent dispute inside the church leadership.
Since the current Patriarch Abune Paulos replaced Patriarch Abune Merkorios, there have been several allegations and accusations over unaccounted for assets during the last several years. The new Patriarch Abune Paulos has been credited for restoring most of the church’s property seized by the former government of Mengistu Haile Mariam. However, millions more dollars worth in property and other church assets have been lost during and since the transition period, according to the source.
These concerns have allegedly added fuel to the clashes between the Patriarch’s group and some archbishops, including the suspended Abune Samuel. While the situation has calmed over the last few days, many expect the dispute to restart when the Holy Synod assembles after two months, unless the underlying problems are addressed.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC) claims to have a membership of 45 Million Ethiopians but the last official Census put its membership at 32.1 Million or 43.5% of the total population of Ethiopia. Despite losing nearly fifteen percent of its overall members to the rapidly growing Ethiopian Evangelical churches, which have grown to 18.6 percent of the country, Orthodox is still the largest religious denomination in Ethiopia.
EOTC has seen declining membership among various ethnic groups, particularly in the southern states including Oromia. An estimated 30.5 percent of Oromos are members of the Ethiopian Orthodox church. Language barriers, politics and the growing evangelical Christianity are said to be main causes for its decline among the Oromo community.
Largest Ethiopian newspaper sued by Orthodox Church
Published 08/04/2009 - 12:15 p.m. GMT
The Ethiopian private newspaper Addis Neger is being sued by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, according to local newspaper reports this weekend. It was charged of defaming the church by allegedly writing false information about Patriarch Abune Paulos and the ongoing crisis inside the troubled church.
The famous Amharic weekly paper widely reported on the power struggle inside the church’s executive committee. Journalist Abraham Begizew was as the result taken to a police station before being released on bail. Abraham was previously attacked and beaten by unidentified men as he was investigating the crisis in the Addis Ababa Diocese.
According to local papers, the Addis Neger Editor-in-Chief Tamerate Nagera was also jailed briefly.... Addis Neger is said to have the largest newspaper circulation in the country.