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ST. MARY OF ZION

ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH - LONDON

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'Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit'

St Matthew 28: 19

Charity No. 282910

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A biography of His Holiness Abune Mathias

    A publication on the election of the sixth Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church prepared by the public relations department

 

Editorial

                                                                        “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be happy today”

                                                                                                                  Psalm 117:24

 

Since the death of the fifth Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Abune Poulos, their graces Archbishop, Monks and Nuns in monasteries, clergy and laity alike, were making individual and group prayers so that the Lord may bestow them the real one who could lead the Church and the sheep.

 

Thus the prayers of the many Christians have met a response and at the time of the Lord called and liked on 21 February 2013, His Grace Abune Mathias was elected as the sixth Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. The clergy and laity from all over Ethiopia and the world have been expressing their joy and happiness.

 

There is good reason for the rejoicing of the clergy and laity. Based on the global and countrywide reality, the Church is in need of resolving its multifaceted challenges. It needed someone who can renew her name, and project her correctly in the international arena, who can preserve and strengthen her position since her foundation in the country; who can gather the sheep dispersed around the globe under one umbrella. At this critical time when the Church is in need of a loving father, it is a great opportunity for the church to elect His Grace Abune Mathias as Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Chruch.

 

We have to assist His Grace Abune Mathias through our prayers so that his profound spiritual knowledge, experience, international exposure, and above all through his prayers, blessings and the support of God, would unite the Christians and contribute to leading this country to higher levels of development and unity.

 

Although His Grace Abune Mathias spent most of his time in the USA and the Holy land Jerusalem, serving the believers and the Church, there was no time when he was disassociated in spirit from the believers, even when the antireligion Derg Government raised the spectre of destruction on our Church and on the people, he exposed the repressive Derg from his then domicile USA. Side by side with this act of exposing the Derg Government, he counselled our people in its time of difficulties and sufferings. His counselling services are vividly remembered by the people to this very day.

 

This day, when His Holiness Abune Mathias received the patriarchal position is a unique moment in the history of our church. We, the children of the Church should accept this opportunity and blessing sent to us by God so that under His holiness’s leadership our Church should grow further and, that peace may prevail in our country. To this end, we should pray wholeheartedly.

 

On this occasion we should stand for the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, which was established on the blood of Jesus Christ, constructed with the blood and bones of our fathers, for the Church is one which is our decoration and honour and which is a relic of our history. As we have been told to pray without ceasing, we should pray also to God so that we can realise what we have thought to fulfil, that our work may be blessed, and that there may be peace and blessing.  

 

Profile of the Patriarch elect: His Grace Abune Mathias

 

His Grace Abune Mathias was elected on 28th February 2013, as the 6th Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church Patriarchate. Among the 800 voters, who including members of the Holy Synod, high church officials, and representatives of the 53 dioceses, noted monasteries and church institutions, His Grace secured over 500 votes among the five candidates the Election committee put forward.

 

This is the highest vote by any standard, which shows the highest confidence the Patriarch-Elect has received from representatives of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church faithful.

 

Patriarch-Elect, His Grace Abune Mathias was borne on 25th January 1941, from his father Ato Wolde Giyorgis Wolde Mariam and his mother Waizero Kelela Gebre Meskel, in a village known as egzie Tsehara, in Sibuh Wereda, Agagme Awraje, Tigray Administration region.

 

As a child he took the basic traditional church educztion from the Geez alphabet to reading the Geez language at kesis (Rev.) Wolde Gerima Wainay, his mother’s uncle’s, school. As it was a tradition for aspiring young boys to pursue their church education in those days at distant schools, he, together with his school mates, left for Chih Monastery in Tembien Awraja. Here, mengiste-ab Gebre Mariam, a very well known teacher of that monastery taught him subjects which qualified him as a deacon, and priest, as well Bahre Hasab, a subject on the Ethiopian Church calendar. In advancing his education, His Grace Abune Mathias graduated as the scholar of the Liturgy after studying under the well known scholar in the field, Memhir (teacher) Tesfa Mariam Gebre Mariam. Once more, His Grace pursued St. Yared’s various Church music, known as Miraf, Tsome Digua, Which are chanted in the church at different seasons and on different occasions, under Gebre Selassie Haile Mariam. Under the Kine scholar Enqo Bahri, he studied Kine, the skill in composing Geez poetry.

 

His Grace wasn’t contented with a limited education. Consequently he studied the interpretations of different religious subjects under scholar, Sibhat Le-ab. After 12 years of studies of church education and monastic life, the Abbot of Mekene Hiywot Chih Monastery, Asrate Tsiyon Kokebu, consecrated the Patriarch elect as a monk in 1959, committing him to serve the Church for life. His Grace Abune Yohanis, the late Archbishop of Tigray region, ordained him a priest.

 

His grace Abune Mathias has furthered his religious education at what is a higher institution of learning of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church. In 1965 he left his former school and joined Axum pf Zion school where he studied the interpretation of the New Testament under the New Testament Scholar, Gabre Giyorgis Gebre Eqzi.

 

Four years later he left Axum for Gondar (the centre of institutions of the Ethiopian Church higher learning) where he studied the ‘Andimta’, the interpretations of the 17 books of the New Testament and graduated as a New Testament Scholar after studying under the famous biblical scholar Dr. Aba Ayele Alemu, A lifelong scholar of biblical studies. The Patriarch-Elect has had an insatiable desire for more and new knowledge. While in Gondar still studying the New Testament interpretations, he followed a modern academic education at Tsadiku Yohanis Government School.

 

In 1973 His Grace the Patriarch-Elect Abune Mathias came to Addis Ababa and joined Holy Trinity Cathedral where his career as the Church servant began. While serving at the Cathedral, he had continued his modern education at Menilik II School where he completed grade 12. Meanwhile His Grace Abune Mathias was appointed assistant to and Deputy Secretary of His Holiness Abune Tekle Haimanote, when the latter was consecrated as the third Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church in 1975.

 

While he was preparing to go to Greece to study theology, the Patriarch-Elect received a spiritual call. He was consecrated as a Bishop in 1979, to serve as Archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church monasteries in Jerusalem. Three years later the Patriarch-Elect took asylum in the USA in protest against the prevailing brutal political situation in Ethiopia at the time.

 

After ten years of exile in the USA he returned to Ethiopian in 1991 after the end of the Derg Government. The Holy Synod confirmed him the same year to serve as an Archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church in the USA, where he served for 15 years.

 

During exile and after his confirmation as an Archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church in the USA, the Patriarch-Elect fulfilled his call of service to the Church. In his Apostolic duties he travelled from one state to another preaching the Gospel and counselling members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church in exile to adhere to their faith, culture, and be comforted against the odds in Ethiopia, assuring them that God will someday heal the wounds of Ethiopians. He baptised those who were not baptised due to a lack of priests in the home of their asylum to administer the sacrament. He was alone in providing his service where he served as a preacher, deacon and priest who administered the Holy Eucharist, among other things. His Apostolic mission also took him to Sudan and Kenya, where the faithful needed his service and counselling.

 

Though there were thousands of Ethiopians in the USA in exile, they did not have a place of worship nor got religious services at the time His Grace Abune Mathias fled to the USA. In addition to the preaching, counselling, and administering the Holy Sacraments, he opened some 20 churches in the names of Saints and Angels, from the east to the western coast of the USA by organising the faithful.

As an Archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church in the USA, the Patriarch-Elect had made efforts to unite Ethiopians who were divided due to political differences. In addition to this, he contacted His Holiness Abune Mercorios and other Archbishops who had fled to the USA and formed a second Holy Synod, so that instead of division, there should be unity between the home Holy Synod and the one in the USA. He advocated discussions and opposed disunity in the historic Church.

As a result of his efforts there has been an open channel of communications between the home Holy Synod and the Archbishops who are allied with His Holiness Abune Mercorios and declared the formation of another Holy Synod in the USA.

 

His Grace Abune Mathias, the Patriarch-Elect, has been working to defend the teachings of the Church against those who wish to distort the true teachings of the Church in the name of reform. At an assembly he called in Washington D.C. to discuss the issue, he warned the faithful not to be misguided by the wrong teachings of groups or individuals who are misguided themselves and tried to mislead the faithful.

 

The Patriarch-Elect’s leadership among Ethiopians in exile was recognised by the former USA Presidents who consulted him about Ethiopian’s problems. For example, the Patriarch-Elect had the chance to meet former USA Presidents Mr Ronald Regan, Mr Bush and Mr Clinton to discuss Ethiopian issues.

 

Since he has been reassigned in 2007 to serve as an Archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church monasteries in Jerusalem, the Patriarch-Elect performed different activities including building new Churches, renovation of old Church buildings, registering and preserving the sacred articles and antiquities of the Churches, and monasteries. He has also been able to return Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church property, including a church building which was in the possession of the Arabs for 40 years.

 

The Patriarch-Elect, who speaks English, Hebrew and Arabic, in addition to his local languages, he has won the confidence of members of the Holy Synod and the faithful, that he is the best qualified for the job of the highest spiritual office of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church. Thus, they have chosen to entrust him with the responsibilities to lead the Church’s over 40 million members in their spiritual journey in this 21st Century.

 

The Patriarch-Elect will be enthroned as the sixth Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church on 29th February 2013.

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