THE deposed Patriarch of the Egyptian Orthodox Church, Abune Antonios, has appeared in public for the first time after a decade of house arrest (News, 1 January 2016), the human-rights charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has reported.
Patriarch Antonios participated in a liturgy at St Mary’s Cathedral, Asmara, in Eritrea, on Sunday. He was deposed by the Eritrean government in 2007, after he refused to excommunicate 3000 government opponents.
CSW said that there was no indication whether his appearance marked a temporary or permanent release from house arrest, and it urged caution, warning that there had been indications before suggesting that he was about to be released.
CSW’s chief executive, Mervyn Thomas, said: “It is encouraging to hear that Patriarch Antonios was able to participate in a mass after a decade of incommunicado incarceration. We await clarification regarding the terms of his release, and our profound hope is that the Patriarch is finally free, and will be reinstated unconditionally.
“We also remember the tens of thousands of prisoners of conscience, of all faiths and none, still languishing in indefinite detention in Eritrea, including the four Orthodox priests and eight Protestant leaders, and reiterate our call for their immediate and unconditional release.”
There has been mounting international pressure from the United States and the EU to release Patriarch Antonios, who is 89. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom reports that he has been denied medical treatment for his diabetes while under house arrest.