November 5, 2010

Patriarch Paulos Statue and its Catholic origin: A Rejoinder to Dilwenebru's Article

(Addisu Tesfaye):- I read Dilwonberu's article, posted on Deje Selam, which was written with the intent of defending the patriarch Paulos statue. Anyone who reads the article could understand the implicit and explicit message Dilwenberu tried to convey. Explicitly, he has expressed the contempt he has for the Holy Synod for passing the resolution to demolish the statue of patriarch Paulos. He went far to the extent of questioning the moral authority of the Church fathers. Further, he implicitly but clearly, is trying to give the event an ethno political dimension. Funnily enough, Dilwenberu is also trying to convince us that none of his spiritual advisors, from deacon to bishop, weren’t able to show him that erecting statue is a non Orthodox Church tradition. I have no time or interest to argue with Dilwenberu on the political issues he raised. But I, indeed, need to air my voice in support of the Holy Synod decision to demolish the statue, Patriarch Paulos erected for himself.

Eastern Orthodox Churches and their decision to ban three-dimensional statues
During the seventh and eight century, there had been a serious controversy on the use of icons and statues. The iconoclastic were against any type of icons and statues and hence were trying their level best to avoid icons and statues from Churches; where as iconodules think and acted diametrically opposite to what iconoclast believe. To curve this rift, there had been successive discussions among bishops of different Churches. Eventually, after intense discussion, the council agreed to completely ban three-dimensional images of any kind from the Church compound and use only two-dimensional images in the late eighth century.
"A revival of the iconoclastic campaign took place during the reign of Leo V. It was again stifled through the intervention of another icon-loving empress and regent, Theodora. Ultimately, a compromise was reached, banning three-dimensional images but tacitly permitting two-dimensional ones." [i]
Since that time onwards, it is illegal to use three-dimensional images, of any kind, in the compound of Eastern orthodox Churches, for any purpose. The reason was clearly justified by the council that passed the decision: Three-dimensional statues did more to glorify the human aspect of the flesh.
"In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, only flat panel or bas relief images are used. The Greeks, having a long, pagan tradition of statuary, found the sensual quality of three-dimensional representations did more to glorify the human aspect of the flesh rather than the divine nature of the spirit and so prohibitions were created against statuary. [ii]
All Eastern Orthodox Churches (Greek, Serbia, Russia, Bulgaria and etc) abide to this canon law and state that erecting statues isn’t allowed in their Church compound or interiors. It is possible to post testimonies from each Church about their teaching on three dimensional images and or statues. But since time and space limits us, let me it cite Serbian Orthodox Church declaration and see the issue from Oriental Churches view.
"Icons are not considered by the Orthodox to be "graven images" or idols, but prohibitions against three-dimensional statuary are still in place, though before the       crisis of Iconoclasm there was an Eastern Christian tradition of statuary, though not as major as in the West. [iii]

Oriental Churches (Coptic, Ethiopian, Syrian, Indian, Armenian, Eritrea) and Three-dimensional images
Historically, Egypt was known for its different type of Idol worship before Christianity.  Coptic Christians   and Coptic missionaries were known for aggressively destroying statues erected everywhere in the country. Egyptians Christians, as a result, were extremely uncomfortable of erecting statues in their Church or elsewhere. Years later, The 24 th Coptic pop, Patriarch Cyril I, commonly known by the name Kyrillos, permitted icons to be hung in the Church but not erecting statues.
"Many of them had difficulty understanding Biblical teachings and their spiritual meanings, as well as the historical events that took place in the Bible and in the life of the Church. Therefore, the leaders of the Early Church permitted the use of religious pictures (icons) because the people were not able to assimilate Christianity and its doctrine unaided by visual means. Therefore, these presentations aided the faithful in understanding the new religion and, at same time, illustrated it. With the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine (307-337 A.D.) to Christianity, the situation changed radically. The Emperor hastened the triumph of Christianity over paganism by forbidding idolatry. The statues of the pagan gods were removed from the capital. Icons were used to decorate Churches and state buildings. It is    important to point out the role of the Patriarch Cyril I (404-430 A.D.), (also known by the name of Kyrillos the Pillar of faith), the 24th Coptic Pope. He permitted icons to be hung in the Patriarchate and all the Churches in Egypt." [iv]

Other Oriental Churches, also, have a long tradition of icons not statues. Although the artistic style of iconography varies a little from one culture to another, all Orthodox icons have the same meaning, usage and symbolism (this includes the Eastern Orthodox Churches; Greek, Russian, Serbian, Bulgarian, etc, as well a the Oriental Orthodox Churches; Coptic, Armenian, Syrian, Ethiopian, etc). [v]  The reader can also get ample information of Armenian Orthodox Church and its teaching about statue from this site. In a nut shell, all Orthodox Churches are against erecting statues.[vi]
Difference between Ethiopian Tewahedo Church and Coptic Church
Dilwenberu tries to argue that Ethiopian Christians should dully accept everything that is accepted by Copts. I wonder when I observe such kind of shallow understanding, from a man who had spiritual advisors ranking from Deacon to Bishops; so funny. Anyways there are many theological, administrative and traditional issues where Ethiopian and Coptic Churches were not and aren’t in agreement with. Even the Copts are well aware of this. The official website of Copts have officially expressed this as follows

"When the Church of Alexandria preached to Ethiopia, she offered her the living Church tradition, but did not oblige the Ethiopians to accept the Coptic traditions in their details. We have to distinguish between tradition as a general Church thought and the traditions, which concern the local Churches. For example, Ethiopia accepted the tradition of using liturgies in her worship but did not use the same texts in their literality. She accepted the spirit and the general frame of the liturgies. Ethiopia also accepted tradition of venerating icons but she used her own art and not the Coptic one. Thus the Coptic Church offered Ethiopia the essence of her tradition but not its details. Therefore if we preach to a foreign country, we have to present the Orthodox Church Tradition without obliging them to accept a certain local thought. This is what happens today as the Coptic Church preaches to Africa, and Kenya for example." [vii]

Roman Catholic Church: The only in favor of erecting statue
However the Roman Catholic Church wasn’t willing to accept the banning of three-dimensional statues; and continued erecting statues in the interior and compound of Churches. The online en wiki discusses the issue as follows:
The Romans, on the other hand, did not adopt these prohibitions and so there is still statuary among the Roman Catholics to this day. Because the Greeks rejected statuary, the Byzantine style of iconography was developed in which figures were stylized in a manner that emphasized their holiness rather than their humanity. [viii]        

 I could be very sure that the spiritual advisors of Dilwenberu are not Orthodox Tewahidoans; I mostly suspect they are Catholics. For them erecting statue is normal. But they should know that it is totally unacceptable for Orthodoxes in general.

Last year Patriarch Paulos was invited in a meeting of Catholics. On that occasion he, openly and officially, has expressed his full support for Catholic Church expansion in Africa (Ethiopia included).Here under is excerpt of the speech he made
"I am really very happy to participate to this Synod of the Catholic Church on Africa..., i carry my support as a friend and a brother to this endeavor of the Catholic Church for Africa. I thank His Holiness for the invitation and wish to him a long life and a fruitful ministry " [ix]
So no wonder if our patriarch erects his statue like Catholics do. And no wonder if Deacons and Bishops who follow the foot step of his “holiness”  and advise “innocents “ like Dilwenberu to keep on erecting statues like the Catholics do. The late Scholar of the Church, Aleka Ayalew Tamiru, was alarming this long before.

አባ ጳውሎስ ሺ ስድስት መቶ ዓመት የኖረ ውግዘት ጥሰው፥ በሥጋው በደሙ የማሉትን መሓላ አፍርሰው የኢትዮጵያን ቤተ ክርስቲያን የሮም ቅኝ ግዛት ስላደረጉ፤ ፍርድ ይሰጥልን፤» ሲሉ ለኀያሉ አምላክ አቤቱታ አቀረቡ። ከዙፋኑ የመጣው መልስ ግን፤ «እስከ ዕለተ ምጽአት ፍርድ የቤተ ክርስቲያን ነው፤» የሚል ነበረ። ይህ ሁሉ በሚከናወንበት ጊዜ የማላውቀው ኀይል ከዚህ ዓለም ነጥቆ ከቅዱስ ቄርሎስ ጎን አሰልፎኝ ከቆየ በኋላ ከዙፋኑ የመጣው ድምፅ፤ «አንተ ያየኸውን፥ የሰማኸውን ለቤተ ክርስቲያን፥ ለምእመናን ንገር፤» ሲል አዝዞ ወደ ነበርኩበት መለሰኝ። ይህ ትእዛዝ ነው እዚህ ሰልፍ ውስጥ ያስገባኝ። ኢትዮጵያዊ፥ ኦርቶዶክሳዊ የሆነ ሁሉም ስለ ቤተ ክርስቲያኑ አጥብቆ መታገል አለበት።» (አለቃ አያሌው ታምሩ)።[x]

[i]           dimensional+images&cd=29&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us


[vi] (


[viii]      qsrc=3044


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ነጻ ፓትርያርክ ምርጫ ቢሆን ኖሮ ማንን ይመርጡ ነበር? እንበልና ሁሉም ነገር ሥርዓቱን ጠብቆ የተከናወነ የእጩዎች ምርጫ ቢሆን ኖሮ፣ አሁን የምናነሣቸው ጉድለቶች ባይኖሩ ኖሮ፣ 6ኛው ፓትርያርክ እንዲሆን የምትመርጡት ማንን ነበር? (ማሳሰቢያ፦ አሁን ያለው ክፍፍል እና የመንግሥት ተጽዕኖ ባይኖር ኖሮ ተብሎ የሚመለስ ጥያቄ ነው። የምን “ባይኖር ኖሮ ነው” የሚል አስተያየት ካለዎትም እናከብራለን።)