Ethiopia's powerful Orthodox Church leader dies suddenlyBy ARGAW ASHINE | Thursday, August 16 2012 at 16:34
The powerful Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abune Paulos, has died at the age of 77 in an Addis Ababa hospital.
The sudden death of the controversial leader could add to tensions in the influential church that is already divided both at home and abroad.
The church's public relations office said Thursday that the synod and other leaders would meet to arrange the funeral and transitional leadership.
Unlike his predecessor, Abune Paulos was a handpicked Patriarch, chosen by prime minister Meles Zenawi in an apparent bid to defuse opposition by Christians to his rule.
Around half of Ethiopia's 85 million population are orthodox Christians and traditionally, the Orthodox Church plays an important role in Ethiopian political life.
Abune Paulos survived an assassination attempt in the mid 1990s inside the church.
His full title was His Holiness Abune Paulos, Fifth Patriarch and Catholicos of Ethiopia, Ichege of the See of St Tekle Haymanot, Archbishop of Axum.
Some churches mainly from the diaspora community opted out of his leadership as a Patriarch and formed another grouping in exile.
He was jailed by the former military government of Mengistu Hailemariam and lived in exile for years before returning to Ethiopia in 1991 when there was regime change.
Electing a new Patriarch is a drawn out process.
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