This information has been received from Abri Harnet (Freedom Friday) members living in Asmar – clarifying the situation with regard to Abune Antonios. It supplements the news carried on Tuesday.
The ‘reconciliation process’ that was said to have culminated in last Sunday’s service has been going on for the last six months. During this period members of the Patriarchate and the clergy from various parishes and some monks (including a certain Father Bereket from the parish of Adi Keyih) have been engaged in a reconciliation effort between those who supported Abune Antonios and those that backed the regime’s critique of the Patriarch. Those working for reconciliation had in fact produced a statement that was distributed widely, including on the internet.
However, according to people close to the process, the effort had also been tainted by the ongoing conspiracy to install a Patriarch who would submit himself to the needs and wishes of PFDJ, and the dictator at its helm.
The Patriarch had, during his deposition in 2007, excommunicated Abune Lucas, the priest who has been unofficially leading the Church in recent years, and several other senior clergy. This effectively means if the Abune Antonios dies without lifting the excommunication, Abune Lucas can never officially take his position, under canonical law. The ‘reconciliation’ effort is thus believed, by many, as a means of putting pressure on Abune Antonios to lift the excommunication, and to prepare the grounds for the inauguration of Abune Lucas.
When the excommunication was pronounced Abune Antonios had officiated at the pronouncement, in accordance to church law and had communicated this to Alexandria. He had asked for the entire matter to be communicated to the public as well. This request was rejected; instead the Patriarch was deposed and put under arrest.
Many years elapsed and following various attempts to get around the issue, it is reported that the Patriarch was told that the event of last Sunday would include a public apology from those member of the clergy who had sided with the government, as the culmination of the reconciliation effort.
However, no such apology was made. Instead the same letter that has been in circulation for many months was read out (by Father Bereket) with no additional provisions. At the same time the Patriarch’s request to address the congregation was rejected, as was his request to pray for the congregation that had gathered at the church.
Following this the priests strongly ordered people to leave the compound. When people were reluctant to go, plain clothed security officers, who had been in the crowd throughout the mass, started pushing people out of the compound and the Patriarch was returned to his place of incarceration.
The Abune is said not to be an outspoken man and he kept things to himself. But he is grieving that the church is so divided, and is not well. Those close to him think that at this moment he would do almost anything to save his church.
We believe this is not the end of the matter and the situation is ongoing. We therefore ask every Eritrean to keep themselves informed about the situation and actively engaged in this matter.
Project Arbi Harnet