ADDIS ABABA – The state funeral of His Holiness Abune Paulos, patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church who died yesterday, will be held August 23 at St. Trinity Cathedral in the capital in the presence of world church leaders, foreign dignitaries as well as high-ranking government officials, a church source said today. In an extraordinary meeting led by His Holiness Abune Philipos, the Holy Synod announced that a round-the-clock prayers would be held Augst 16 in the presence of religious leaders from within and outside of Ethiopia. Abune Philipos will remain the highest authority until a patriarch is enthroned following the funeral.
Earlier yesterday at Balcha Hospital, a quick medical exam was conducted for the deceased patriarch to dispel fears that there was a foul play in his death. According to Dejeselam, the unofficial website of the church, the autopsy
(post-mortem exam) was held in the presence of top church leaders and unnamed high-ranking government officials.
Many religious leaders from around the world are expected to travel to Ethiopia for the August 23 funeral of the patriarch who died at the age of 76.
Abune Paulos left behind over Birr 22 million (US 1.23 million) in one state-owned bank but it was not known who would inherit the fortune, according to a piece by Dejeselam.
Critics often accused the 76-year-old Abune Paulos of being very close to the Meles regime, to the point of ignoring the pleas of protesting university students who had taken shelter in church compounds to escape police brutality. The patriarch sided with the government, let alone to condemn the police who stormed the churches and brutalized the young and helpless university students who were dragged to detention camps.
He also took the Ethiopian society by surprise when he hosted American diva Beyoncé Knowles in 2007 and later oversaw the erection of his own statue in 2010. But the last straw that broke the camel’s back set in when Abune Paulos remained indifferent over the desecration of the fifth-century Waldeba Monastery for sugar plantation and factories this year.
Abune Paulos was born in Adwa, Tigrai region, on 3 November 1935. His death is very likely to have mixed public reactions: those who mourn his death as the loss of the father of the church and those who, along with the reported death (or near death) of Prime Minister Meles, may welcome the loss as a divine intervention to punish criminals.