12 September 2006

Ethiopia: Orthodox Head Urges Churches to Work for Better World

Geneva — All churches have an urgent duty to work together to promote hope, dialogue and reconciliation, which are "the only solutions to the world's problems," the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church said.

"Today we live in a troubled world. Our task in the ecumenical movement is not to deal only with the Christian world, but with the whole of God's creation as we are all His creatures," said His Holiness Patriarch Abune Paulos.

Patriarch Paulos, head of the 40-million strong Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church since 1992, is a president of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

As a young orthodox priest and monk and later a bishop, Paulos directed the development and refugee service of the church, and became actively involved in international ecumenical work. In 1976, he was imprisoned for seven years for his beliefs by the Marxist military government, and subsequently spent several years in exile in the USA.

In an interview published by the WCC, Patriarch Paulos expressed his conviction that "through dialogue, we can heal wounds, appease hearts and bring signs of hope."

He called on all churches in the ecumenical movement to offer a visible, concrete response to the world's problems. "I believe that we all have to be true representatives of our own churches, and that we all have to do our part to serve and contribute, through our communities, the whole world."

Regarding his church in Ethiopia, which, he said, has 45 million faithful, 50,000 church buildings and, 500,000 clergy, the patriarch said despite the dark period of the communist regime, monastic life has been sustained, and many young people continue to flock to spiritual centres to learn about their faith.

Ethiopia has known various forms of government in its long history, and though democracy was introduced 15 years ago, the country remains politically unstable. "To enjoy democracy, all the people need to understand not only their rights, but also their responsibilities," Patriarch Paulos said.

"I appeal to all people to learn to tolerate what they disagree with, and I ask people to show patience. But I believe that Ethiopia is beginning to make progress and I am hopeful that differences will not prevent people from working together."

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