The fourth patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Abune Merkorios, has passed away after several weeks of hospital treatment for an unspecified medical condition.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said he was “deeply saddened to hear the passing away of his holiness” who he said “played a vital role in the reunification of the two synods. It’s an immense loss to the country.”
The mayor of Addis Ababa also expressed her condolences.
Patriarch Merkorios was ordained in the late 1980s during the Marxist Derg regime, then forced to abdicate after the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) overthrew the Derg in 1991, which resulted in the church splitting.
His followers objected, saying the role of the patriarch was held for life. Abune Merkorewos escaped to the US, where a rival synod was established.
He came back from his 27-year exile in 2018 after Prime Minister Abiy persuaded him to reconcile with the rival faction of the church.
Following the exile of Patriarch Merkorios, Patriach Paulos was elected in 1992. When he passed away in 2012, Patriarch Mathias was elected to replace him.
After the reunification, the Ethiopian Orthodox church had two patriarchs.
Patriach Merkorios was responsible for the spiritual aspect of the church, while Patriarch Mathias was in charge of the day-to-day affairs.