Eritrean Patriarch's Health Reportedly Deteriorating

The Executive Office of the Eritrean National Council for Democratic Change announced on Monday that it had confirmation that the 85 year old Abune Antonios, "the legitimate Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Eritrea" was "sick and in a worrisome condition." Abune Antonios was illegally removed from his patriarchal position and forcibly detained at an undisclosed location by the Eritrean government in 2007. The Government claims he has retired to a monastery to pray. Last week, the Holy Synod of the Œcumenical Canonical Orthodox Church Worldwide (ŒCOCW) called for the regime in Asmara to free Abune Antonios as well as several thousand other detained Christians in Eritrea. The International Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church Dioceses in Europe and in North America have also called for the Patriarch’s release.
Now the Eritrean National Council for Democratic Change, set up at a recent meeting of opposition organizations, has called for the "immediate freedom for his Holiness" and for him to regain "his rightful place" among his compatriots from other faiths who have raised their voices, calling on the entire Eritrean people, Christians and Muslims alike, to unanimously condemn the actions of the Eritrean government against religious freedom. Abune Antonios was removed from office because he expressed strong concern over the growing interference of the government in religious affairs. He refused government demands to excommunicate three thousand members of the Medhane Alem Sunday School movement and in turn demanded the government should release Christians imprisoned for their faith and accused of treason.

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