By Fredrick Nzwili
The Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, His Holiness Abune Paulos, died on 16 August at the age of 76, according to his private secretary.
The secretary told the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) that Paulos died following medical treatment. According to news reports, Paulos had been admitted to the hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia after suffering a heart attack on 15 August.
He was the fifth patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and served in that role since 1992.
He was also president of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and was admired for his work on HIV/AIDS, interfaith dialogue and the protection of refugees, according to a WCC statement.
The WCC general secretary, the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, expressed deep sorrow over the patriarch’s death. He remembered called his contributions to the ecumenical movement “most significant.”
Paulos’ role “in promoting interfaith dialogue in Ethiopia, his home country, and beyond is a continuing legacy for the churches. Through his work he highlighted the concerns of women and youth, especially in regard to HIV andAIDS,” said Tveit.
“As a global fellowship of churches, we celebrate His Holiness’s great commitment to the ecumenical movement and his consistent efforts for Christian ministry, especially in supporting the marginalized,” Tveit said.
“Let us keep the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and its leadership in our prayers and support them in this time of loss, mourning and transition,” added Tveit.
Paulos led the 40 million members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and served on the WCC Central Committee and the Commission on Faith and Order.
While he was instrumental in interfaith dialogue initiatives, Paulos was vocal in several international platforms, including the World Economic Forum and the World Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders at the United Nations.
In recognition of his outstanding work for the welfare of refugees, in 2000 he was awarded the Nansen Medal for Africa by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. This year, he was also honoured by the Vision for Generations for his 20 years of leadership in the campaign to address HIV and AIDS in Ethiopia.