Meet ‘Africa’s 2002 Hero of Faith’ Who Died Defending The Faith
At a time that many servants of God compromise or could hardly stand for Christ, patriarch of the Eritrean Tehwado Orthodox Church, Abune Antonios died on 9 February after spending 15 years under house arrest – DEFENDING THE FAITH.
His death saddened the body of Christ but his “apologetic” faith spurs the faith of many.
He was reportedly buried the following day at the Abune Andreas monastery, to which he belonged.
You can call him: “a deeply principled man” or ” ahero of the faith”. He made a”courageous stand” for religious freedom in Eritrea.
He was removed from the Church’s leadership in 2005 at the behest of the Eritrean government.
His removal came after he resisted repeated government interference in church affairs, and defended the Orthodox renewal movement, Medhane Alem, including three priests imprisoned over their involvement.
In 2007 he was illegally replaced as head of the Church by the government-approved Bishop Dioscoros, whom the Orthodox papacy in Egypt refused to recognise up to his death in 2015.
He was relentless in standing for the truth and fighting against his ‘unjust’ removal.
In 2019, he was accused of heresy by five pro-government bishops and excommunicated but respond that: “The Eritrean Synod are the accusers and adjudicators, without listening to my side. They broke the law of the Eritrean Orthodox Church”.
Responding to news of his death, CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “Abune Antonios was a deeply principled man who prioritised his calling over the politicisation of the Church by a regime deemed to have committed crimes against humanity since 1991. Despite 16 years of unremitting pressure, mistreatment, and defamation, the patriarch never compromised, even when it could have led in his reinstatement. He chose instead to protect the integrity and doctrine of the Church with which he had been entrusted, at the cost of freedom and comfort in his twilight years.”
Thomas called on the international community to honour the patriarch’s “courageous stand” for religious freedom by “regalvanising efforts” to secure the release of the three Orthodox priests he defended and the thousands of others detained arbitrarily in Eritrea for their religion or beliefs.
He added that: “We also urge the Egyptian Orthodox authorities, to whom the late patriarch appealed his case, to ensure a succession that is in line with Church tradition.Recognising the current incumbent would be tantamount to legitimising the unjust and illegal removal, imprisonment and mistreatment of a hero of the faith”.