Eritrean Christians are calling for Monday to be marked as a day of prayer and fasting, as Patriarch Antonios of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, who has been under house arrest since January 2007, wasn’t allowed to deliver the traditional televised Geez New Year blessing last week. His first public appearance two months ago had raised hopes of his likely release.
The New Year blessing was delivered last week by Bishop Lukas, a pro-government cleric who allegedly wants to be the next patriarch, and not by Patriarch Antonios, who was removed from office, in violation of canon law, for repeatedly objecting to government interference in ecclesiastical affairs, according to the U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
Patriarch Antonios made an appearance in public at a church service on July 16 — the first time since his arrest in 2007 — which led to speculation about his imminent release from house arrest and reinstatement to office. However, he was apparently allowed to reappear only to offset international criticism and pressure.
CSW quoted sources as saying that the fact that Patriarch Antonios did not deliver the New Year message “is the biggest sign that he is still not restored fully to his position. Under canon law, if a patriarch is around, a bishop should not give the benediction.”
The patriarch is among over 10,000 prisoners of conscience in Eritrea, several hundred of whom are Christians.
SOURCE: Anugrah Kumar