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3852Eritrea denies patriarch axing

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  • Thomas Daniel
    Aug 31, 2005
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      Asmara - The government of Eritrea on Wednesday denied a report on
      an opposition internet site that it had fired the patriarch of the
      Orthodox Church.

      The site, www.asmarino.com, said the government of the Horn of
      Africa country had made an attack on religion "one of the
      cornerstones of its repressive policies".

      Information minister Ali Abdu rejected the website as "trash" and
      said patriarch Abune Antonios was still at his post.

      He rejected suggestions that the government had interfered in the
      leadership and administration of the church, the largest Christian
      body in Eritrea.

      Abdu said: "Abune Antonios is still the patriarch of the Orthodox
      Church of Eritrea."

      Job descriptions, job divisions

      He said: "Our state system is secular, that is separate from
      religion. The synod elects the patriarch, it is a sovereign entity,
      it chooses the job descriptions and job divisions."

      The website had over the past week run several stories alleging that
      the government had sacked Abune for protesting official interference
      in the running of the church.

      It said the patriarch "is allowed to lead a spiritual life, but
      prohibited from playing any administrative roles in the daily
      operation of the Church.

      "Abune has dared to challenge the government from interfering in the
      administration of the patriarchy".

      Officials at Orthodox Church in Asmara last week said that Abune was
      at home and declined to comment on whether he still worked there.

      Eritrea's 3.5 million population was equally divided among Muslims
      and Christians.