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Tigrayan Catholics write to Pope Francis about the involvement of Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel in Tigray crisis



A letter of concern on the crisis in Tigray and on the involvement of H. E. Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel (Head of the Ethiopian Catholic Church)

Your Holiness Pope Francis,

We are Catholic faithful from Tigray, Ethiopia residing in the United States. We thank Your Holiness for Your untiring prayer and Your call for peace and reconciliation at the beginning of the war in Tigray. Your Holiness’ prayer and voice has been a beacon of hope and encouragement to the millions of people going through unspeakable darkness in Tigray and especially to the Catholic faithful in the region. We consider and value Your Holiness’ prayer and call for peace as coming on behalf of the universal Church. Thank you very much for that!

It has been more than 120 days since the war in Tigray started, and the people of Tigray have been going through tremendous sufferings. Multiple actors, the Ethiopian federal government forces and Eritrean troops supported by many other groups, are committing inexcusable crimes and atrocities on our people. Since November 4, 2020, Tigray is suffering from extrajudicial killings, mass slaughters, mass abduction, rape including nuns, looting public and private properties, destruction of buildings including religious sites, hospitals, factories, universities and historical heritages, burning of crops, killing and looting of livestock and so on.

As a consequence of the war, tens of thousands of civilians have lost their lives, and over sixty thousand fled to the Sudan. The newly established administration in Tigray reports that “over 4.5 million people, 75% of Tigray’s population, are left in need of emergency food assistance, of whom 2.2 million are internally displaced persons(IDPs).”

The Catholic Church, as part of the community of Tigray, is not spared from the horrible war crimes. Its institutions: churches, colleges, hospitals and schools were looted and destroyed. Hundreds of the Church’s faithful, including 4 and 5 members of a single family, have lost their lives.

As to our humble faith and knowledge, the Catholic Church’s teaching about politics is clear and impartial. We firmly believe that “the Church, by reason of her role and competence, is not identified in any way with the political community nor bound to any political system. She is at once a sign and a safeguard of the transcendent character of the human person‚”(GS, 76). In spite of this clear teaching of the Catholic Church, H. E. Cardinal Berhaneyesus, seems to have committed regrettable mistakes, as he acts both individually and representing the Catholic Church in Ethiopia. As a consequence, we as Catholics and as Tigrayans feel betrayed, hurt and even scandalized by what he has done so far and still continues to do. We would like to point out some of the hurtful acts of H. E. Cardinal Berhaneyesus in relation to the war in Tigray.

  1. Before the war, H. E. Cardinal Berhaneyesus accepted to be a “designated President ”of a commission which is not independent by composition and stand of its members. The ”Ethiopian Reconciliation Commission”(ERC), henceforth established by the Ethiopian prime minister on February 12, 2019. In fact, many members of this commission were openly speaking provocative and hateful rhetoric against the people of Tigray. In spite of alarms and calls from many people of good will that the commission was partial and not independent, H. E. Cardinal Berhaneyesus willingly accepted to be its president.
  2. As head of the Ethiopian Catholic Church and as the president of the ERC, we believe that H. E. Cardinal Berhaneyesus should have been the first one to condemn the war and call for peace and reconciliation. Unfortunately, H. E. Cardinal Berhaneyesus has not condemned the war.
  3. On the 13th of November 2020 the ERC released an official statement through the government’s media. The statement said that ”TPLF’s call for negotiation and peace is not acceptable.” We believe it is unethical that a commission named as ’Reconciliation Commission’ and headed by a Catholic Cardinal to issue that statement.
  4. On November 18, 2020, H. E. Cardinal Berhaneyesus and most members of the ERC officially supported the war on Tigray publicly saying “I stand for the Ethiopian Defense Forces.” It should be noted that at the time, the Ethiopian Defense Forces and other actors were committing terrible war crimes on the People of Tigray.
  5. On the eve of the Ethiopian Christmas, January 6, 2021, H. E. Cardinal Berhaneyesus issued a pastoral message concerning the feast of Christmas. At the time, the war on Tigray had already caused indescribable harm and disaster both in terms of life and material loss. To be specific, starvation and sexual violence were being used as weapons of war in a complete communications blackout. In spite of our expectations and hope that H. E. Cardinal Berhaneyesus would clearly condemn the war atrocities by raising his voice for the voiceless, he plainly supported the war. In the middle of his message, written in Amharic, he wrote: ”We request the government to strengthen and continue its efforts of ensuring people’s right to life, rule of law and securing peace.” To a government that waged war on its people in the name of “law enforcement,” this was a clear license and permission to go ahead with the unspeakable crimes being committed. On the conclusion of the same message, H. E. Cardinal Berhaneyesus writes, “I wish successful work for the defense forces and federal police, who are looking after the borders of the country and ensuring peace.” In fact, the defense forces were destroying Tigray in coordination with foreign invading forces.
  6. The Ethiopian Catholic Church’s participation in the recent visit to Tigray by a delegation of the Ethiopian government on February 6, 2021, was an act understood by the people of Tigray to be a collaboration on a Genocidal crimes. We and the people of Tigray in general feel that the mission of the visit by the delegation was meant to cover up the war crimes of the Ethiopian and Eritrean troops’. We Catholics from Tigray living in the United States and all the people of Tigray feel betrayed and we are saddened by H. E. Cardinal Berhaneyesus’ actions. In a time when our people are facing a Genocidal acts by multiple actors and when the Church is meant to be a voice for the voiceless, H. E. Cardinal Berhaneyesus’ actions and omissions are worsening the situation.

Incidentally, we would like to express our appreciation to The Eritrean Catholic Bishops for standing on the side of peace and calling for dialogue. In addition, Thabo Makgoba, the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town,” has mobilized the church and reached out to the South African government in an attempt to halt the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ethiopia”. We Thank him for that! It is our desire for H. E. Cardinal Berhaneyesus to stand for peace and for all people of Ethiopia.

Your Holiness, we, the Catholics from Tigray living in the United States and all the people of Tigray are calling on Your Holiness to help us stop the genocidal crimes being committed on our people.

We thank Your Holiness for Your blessings, kind attention and prayer.

This letter has been cced to:

  • Secretariat Vatican State
  • H. E. Cardinal Berhaneyesus
  • Ethiopian Catholic Bishops Conference
  • Apostolic Nuncio in Ethiopia

See also Ethiopian Reconciliation Commission Expresses Support for the War on Tigray

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  1. Justice

    May 10, 2021 at 7:07 am

    Hi All
    Am not sure about the quoted Statements by the Cardinal vis-a-vis the Tigrai Crisis!
    I could not believe that he might have officially supported the war in Tigrai!
    It is my understanding that the Cardinal might have condemned the TPLF Terrorist acts against the ENDF.
    But it is ONLY a common sense also to check the root causes of the war and the role of the TPLF chronologically and in detail.
    Hit and cry?

  2. Alula

    April 28, 2021 at 3:59 pm

    There is no point in sending letters to the cardinal because he is fully aware of his actions and the consequences. The best way to communicate with power mongers like him is to sever ties with that church. Individuals like him are not the servants of God, they are just there to take care of their thirst for power.

  3. Mezgebe

    March 29, 2021 at 3:09 pm

    What did the Ethiopian elders and religious leaders visited in Tigray? The Demolished Religious sites…? Harassed, Terrorized, and discriminated civilians…? Forcefully raped women and underage girls …? The starving people…? Mass graves of innocent civilians…? The new settlers who displaced the refugees in Sudan…? The former Universities and current military camps…? The emptied hospitals…? All these sins were committed by their blessed combined troops.

  4. ትግራይ ሀገር እያ

    March 27, 2021 at 2:34 pm

    የአመፅ ቋንቋ እና የግፍ ድርጊት ሞልቶ የተረፈባት ኢትዮጵያ የጣኦት ቤት ሆናለች፥ኢትዮጵያ ሀገሬ ነሽ ክብሬ፥ኢትዮጵያን ለመታደግ አማራን እናድን፥እኛ አማራዎች እዉነትን ይዘን እናሸንፋለን የምትሉ ጉዳችሁን ስሙ የናንተዋ አማራዊቷ ኢትዮጵያ የጣኦት ቤት ናት፥ድንቄም የአሥራት ሀገር፥ይህን ማን ነገራቹህ??
    አንዳንድ ወንጀለኛ ለከት አለዉ በቅፅበታዊዉ ወንጀሉ ሲፀፀት እናያለን እናንተገን ከበደል ላይ በደልን ስትጨምሩ የጥላቻ ንጝግርን ያለ ዕረፍት ታዘንቡታላቹህ፥የትግራይ እናት ከሞተች ሌባ መዉለድ ታቆማለች ስትሉ ያለ ሀፍረት ዘረገፋችሁት፥
    የእናንተ የአመፅ ቋንቋ ሞልቶ ተትረፈረፈ፥፥አለምም አወቀዉ፥: ነገር ግን የማይገለጥ የተከደነ፥ የማይታወቅም የተሰወረ ምንም የለም። ፫ ስለዚህ በጨለማ የምትናገሩት ሁሉ በብርሃን ይሰማል፥ በእልፍኝም ውስጥ በጆሮ የምትናገሩት በሰገነት ላይ ይሰበካል እንደተባለ በወንጌል።የሉቃስ ወንጌል ፡ ምዕራፍ ፩፪፡፪፡፫፥፥
    አሥመራ በዋሻ ዉሥጥ ተደብቃቹህ የምትዶልቱት ሴራ በሰአታት ዉሥጥ ለዓለም ይገለጣል፥ሌላ ማንም አደለም የሠራዊት ጌታ የንፁሓን አምላክ ቸሩ እግዚአብሔር ሥራችሁና ቃላቹህ አንድ እንዳል ሆነ እንድንገነዘብ በልቦናችን ዉሥጥ ማስተዋሉን ስለሰጠን ስላኖረ ነው፥፥ሁሌም የክፋት ሥራቹህ ምሥክር ነዉ፥በአንደበታቹህ የኤርትራ ከትግራይ ይወጣል ስትሉን በተግባር ደግሞ ተጨማሪ የጨለማ ጭፍሮችን ወደ ትግራይ ስትልኩ ተስተዉላችኋል፥
    በአንድ ወቅት የቅኔ (የግዕዝ ቋንቋ)ተማሪዎች የኔታ(የቅኔ መምህር) እንዳይሰሙ በቅኔ(የግዕዝ ቋንቋ) እንነጋገር አሉ ይባላል፥እነዚህ ሁለቱ አምባገነኖች(የኤርትራዉ ኢሳይስ ና የአማራ ልሂቃኑ መዘዉር ሕልመኛዉ አቢይ) የጥፋት እና የአመፅ ቋንቋቸዉ ለአለም የማይታወቅ ቢመስላቸዉ በአቅማቸዉ አሥመራን እንደ መደበቂያ ዋሻ መርጠዉ የአመፅ ድብቅ ቋንቋ ሤራን ተጠቅመዉ ሊያታልሉን እንዳቅማቸዉ ሲፍጨረጨሩ አራት ወራት አለፉ፥፥
    በኦሪት ዘመን (ሕገ-ኦሪት)መሥዋዕት የተሰዋባት የክርስትና ደሴት ፥የቅዱሳን የአሥራት ሀገር ፥ከሶሳት ሺ ዘመን በላይ ታራክ ያላት ብቸኛዋ ሀገር እያሉ የሚያሞካሿት ኢትዮጵያ የአምልኮት መልክ ያላቸዉ ነገር ግን ፈራሃ እግዚአብሔር የተለያቸዉ የራቃቸዉ፥በፍፁም የእግዚአብሔር ልጆች ሊባሉ የማይገባቸዉ ሰዎች ስብስብ ሆናለች፥የሚገርመዉ ደግሞ ሕፃናትን እንደጣኦት ቤት እያሳረዱ ፥ይህን አለም ንቀዉ ከአለም ፈቃድ ርቀዉ በገዳማት የሚኖሩ አባቶችና እናቶችን አይሰጡ ስም ሰጥቶ በወያኔ ስም መግደል መናንያትን መድፈር ማስደፈር ናቸዉ፥፥በምንኩስና በተባሕትዎ(ብቸኝነት)መኖር የፈቃድነዉ፥ ፥የራስን ህይወት፥ሥጋዊ ምኞትንና ሀሳብን ወደ ኋላ ትቶ ክርስቶስን መንፈሳዊዉን እንደብቸኛ አማራጭ አድርጎ መከተል ነዉ፥፥ እንደሁላችንም ከኛዉ ጋር በሃይማኖታቸዉ ጌታን ማገልገል ሲችሉ የትሩፋትን መንገድ ተከትለዉ በጫካ የሚኖሩ አባቶችና እናቶችን ትጋሩ ፥ወያኔ ናቹህ ከወያኔ ለይተን አናያችሁም በሚል ሰይጣናዊ ፈሊጥ መግደልና ከክብር ማሳነስ ከወዴት የመጣ ነዉ??
    እንደኔ አመለካት እናንተ ያለ ርህራሄ የምረሽኗቸዉ ህፃናት ገና የብሄር(ጎሳ)ማንነት በዉስጣቸዉ አልተፈጠረም፥በሚኖሩበት በማህረሰብ ዉሥጥ ያላቸዉ ማህበራዊ ድርሻ በጣም አናሳና ዉስን ነዉ፥፥ለኔ ካህናት፥መነኮሳት መነኮሳይያት ብሔር የላቸዉም፥ምንም እንኳን ከእኛ ጋር በምድር ቢኖሩም በመንፈሳዊዉ አላማቸዉና ሥራቸዉ ከክርስቶስ ሰማያዊዉ ነገድ ናቸዉ፥ፀሎታቸዉም ለዓለም ሁሉ እንጂ ለትግራዋይ ና ለትግራይ ብቻ እንዳልሆነ ሁላችሁም ታዉቁታላቹህ፥ ቤተክርስቲያችን ዘርና ነገድ ቋንቋ ሳትለይ ስለሁሉም ሕብረ ብሄራት፥ከሁሉም ወገን በደል የጅምላ ጭፍጨፋ ስለደረሰባቸዉ ሁሉ ጥብቅና መቆም መኮነን መቃወም አለባት፥ይህ ደግሞ የቆምንለት አምላካዊ ና መንፈሳዊ ግዴታ ብቻ ሳይሆን ሰብአዊ ባሕርይ ነዉ፥አሁም በመደጋገም የምናሳስበዉ የዘር የጅምላ ጭፍጨፋ አስፈፃሚና ፈፃሚ አካላት የሚመለከተዉ አካል እንዲያቀርባቸዉ፥የዚህ ጅምላ ጭፍጨፋ የሚካሄድባቸዉን ወገኖቻችንን የሚመለከተዉ አካል ከለላ እና የነፍስ አድን አቅርቦቶችን እንዲያደርስላቸዉ በተማህፅኖ እንጠይቃለን፥፥ዘር ፥ጎሳ ፥ሃይማኖት ሳይለይ ያልታጠቁ ንፁሓን የአዳም ልጆችን ከጅምላ ጭፍጨፋ እንታደጋቸዉ፥፥
    ሁላችንም በወገኖቻችን ላይ በሚፈፀመዉ የጅምላ ጭፍጨፋ ፥በሰዉ ሰራሽ ረሀብ እልቂት ቢጎዳንም በቂም በበቀል በሌሎች አካላት ላይ የሚደረግን እልቂት ቤተክርስቲያን አትቀበለዉም አትደግፈዉም፥የስነ ልቦና ጠባሳን እና ፀፀትን የሚያሽር መስሎ ቢታየንም በወገኖቻችን ላይ የደረሰዉን በበል እንዳልተፈፀመ አድርጎ ለግማሽ ደቂቃ እንኳ እንድናስብአያደርገንም፥፥ወገኖቻችን ከሞት ሊያነሳ አይችልም፥፥የራስን ሀገር(አጥር ከልሎ just as we fence and but barrier to block an intruder and savage animal , we do not need to associate ourselves from those who commit henious crimes anymore. And the rise of an independent Tigray will inevitably protect our future generation and history from any likely peril to come)መሥርቶ ወገኖቻችንን ና ታሪካችንን መታደግ መጠበቅ ይገባል፥ወራሪዎች ለእኛ ብቻ ሳይሆን ለእግዚአብሔር ቤትና አገልጋዮቹ ክብር እንደሌላቸዉ አሳይተዉናል፥፥ቤተመቅደሱን በማቃጠል፥ካህናትን በጅምላ በመረሸን፥መነኮሳትን በመድፈር፥፥የሕዉሓት መሪዎች በሕግ መዳኘት ሲገባቸዉ በእነርሱ ስም ይሄ ሁሉ ግፍ ለምን አስፈለገ፧ትግራዋይን ለማጥፋት በአለማቀፍ ተቅዋማት ፊት ራሳቸዉን ከተጠያቂነት ለማዳን ወያኔ ጁንታ የሚሏቸዉ ሚስጥራዊ ቃላትን ፈበረኩ፥፥ከዚህም አልፈዉ የጅምላ ጨፍጫፊዎች አቢይና የኤርትራዉ አቻዉ ኢሳይያስእነዚህን ሁለቱ ቃላት(ወያኔ እና ጁንታ)በአለማቀፍ የጅምላ ጨፍጨፋ ታሪክ እንደ አቢይና አቻዉ ኢሳይያስ ያሉ አምባገነኖች የጅምላ ጨፍጫፊዎች ለእኩይ ተግባራቸዉና ስም ማጠልሸት ይጠቀሙባቸዉየነበሩ ሰይጣናዊ ቃላቶቻቸዉ ውሥጥ ተካተዉ መዝገበቃላት ዉሥጥ እንዲሰፍሩ አስተዋፅዖ አድርገዋል፥፥

    እናንተ እኮ አያልቅባቹህም ፥መልሥ አታጡም ፥ከናንተ አንዱ ወያኔን መግደል ያፀድቃል ሲል በድፍረት ተናግሯል፥ከኦሪት ዘፍጥረት እስከ ዮሐንስ ራዕይ ቢገለጥ በአመለካከቱ ከአንተ የተለየዉን ግደል የሚል አናገኝም ፥እኛ የሀይማኖት ሰዎች ህውሓት ወደ ሥልጣን መመለስ አንሰብክም፥አንዱን የፖለቲካ ፖርቲ በመደገፍ ሌላውን ፖርቲ ለመጣል በደረግ የትኛዉም ሤራ አድማ ዱለታ ለመሳተፍ አንፈቅድም፥፥ነገርግን ለህዝባችን ለሀገራችን ለወገናችን ይሰራል ወገናችንን ከረሀብና ከድህነት ነፃ ያወጣል ያላቅቃል ብለን የምናምነዉን ከመምረጥ የሚከለክለን አምላካዊ ቃል የለም፥፥ በተለምዶ ሰዎች ፖለቲካ ዉሥጥ አትግቡ ወዘተ ያላሉ በሰዉሰዉኛ አስተሳሰብ ና አመለካከት ፖለቲካ ሲሉ ሰዎች የተለያየ የፖለቲካ ወይም ግላዊ አመለካከት(አቋም)ባላቸዉ ሰዎች ና አካላትና ማህበራት ላይ በሚደርስ በደል ላይ አለመሳተፍን ባጭሩ ይመለከታል፥፥ቤተክርስቲያን ይህን በማንም ፖርቲ ይደረግ አትደግፍም እከይ ተግባራትን መደገፍም የለባትም፥፥አሁን ላይ ግን የቅዱሳን ሀገር የምት ባለዋ ኢትዮጵያ ህፃናትን የምትገድል እናትና ሴቶች ልጆቿን የምትደፍር የምታስደፍር፥ካህናትን በጅምላ የምትገድል በዝርዝር እዚህ ላይ ለመጥቀስ አዳጋች የሆኑ ለጆሮ የሚሰቀጥጡ፥እና ያልተለመዱ ግፎችን በሕዝቦቿ ላይ ያለማቋረጥ እየፈፀመች ትገኛለች፥፥እንኳንስ ዛሬ ላይ ኢትዮጵያዊ ነኝ ብዬ ልናገር በቀድሞዉ ኢትዮጵያዊዉ ማንነቴ አፈርኩ ፥፥ በነገራችን ላይ ኢትዮጵያዊነት በገዝዎች የተሰጠን ማንነት እንጂ አይቀየሬ አይነጠቄ የአምላክ ሥጦታ፦በረከት አይደለም፥ኢትዮጵያዊነትን ከክርስትና ጋር በፍፁም አታገናኙት፥፥በአብሮ መኖር በአንድነት የሚየሚታፈሰው ፥የሕብረ ብሔራት የጥምረት ባህላዊ ማንነት፥ዕድገት ፥የመደጋገፍ ልምድ ና ባህል ሁላችንም አንዘነጋዉም ዛሬን ላይ ሆኜ ግን ደቀመዛሙርቶቼን ቤተክርስቲያናችሁን ና ቅሶቻችሁን ከሚያቃጥሉ ሰዎች ርቃችሁ የራሳችሁን ችላችሁ ከወገኖቻቹህ ጋር ከእግዚአብሔር የማምለኪያ አፀድ ቤተክርስቲያን ተሰባሰቡ ስል አስገነዝባለሁ፥፥ከ መቶ አምሳ አመታት በላይ ሕዝባችንን ሲገድል ፥ከባዕዳን ውጭ ወራሪዎች ጋር አባቶቻችንን ሲገድል የቆየ አሁንም ከአረብ ሀገራት ጋር ሆኖ ሕፃናትንና እናቶችን ለአቅመ አዳም ያልደረሱ ልጆቻችንን በጅምላ ከሚጨፈጭፍ ጋር በአንድ ሀገር(ኢትዮጵያ) ጥላ ሥር በአንድ ቤተመቅደስ(የኢትዮጵያ ኦርቶዶክስ ተዋህዶ ስም)መቀጠል አንችልም፥፥

  5. The blood of our Martyrs is a seed to our Church

    March 24, 2021 at 4:15 pm

    We are exceedingly concerned about the mass killings of the people of Tigray and their death from man-made starvation used as a supplementary weapon to exterminate our people.
    Your Holiness ,I suppose you have been informed on the ongoing genocide and massive destruction caused by the Ethiopian government officials who claim that they are conducting a military operation to apprehend very few TPLF leaders . However,as per the reality on the ground , this operation is far from internal conflict and has resulted in deaths of civilians numbered in thousands. People of Tigray irrespective of their age, gender, religious and social background has been slaughtered. Priests ,monks and nuns were killed . Many atrocities have been committed. These crimes are of a repulsive and abhorent natutre which most descent men donot not only inclined to commit but also not feel comfortable to talk about them . Sadly speaking they are committed against our people and in the most revered and sacred places such as monasteries by Ethiopian and Eritrean armies who are paid to join this massive killings and to weaponize rape in this war since 4th of November.

    These invading forces are rashing to causemany more destruction and annihilation before the intervention of foreign intergovernmental organizations. I humbly and kindly request you to help us with your God-given grace in urging the body concerned , local and intergovernmental organizations in your region to act swiftly in a bid to save lives . The forces of destructions are killing innocent civilians(including Children, women , priests and hermits)anddestroying every single day our public and private infrastructure hurriedly before international community arrives and take action.

    As it is known to the world , Christianity was firstly adopted ) in Tigray in 4th Century and consequently Ethiopia is considered as one of the first regions in the world to officially adopt Christinity during the Axumite Kingdom. Ethiopia is widely known to be the ancient country in the world on the account of several and magnificient stories that People of Tigray generously shared with neighboring tribes .

    We kindly beseech you to help us becoming a voice for the voice less during this war waged on our people and this war left innumerable damage to our church, sacred religious heritages got burned and looted and priests collectively massacred . The history of our Orthodox church is the part of the entire Christianity and history of all religions. We expect you help us preserve the church of Christ with your sacred intervention .

    We are just as concerned to know that you will support all our people regardless of their religious standing during this ongoing war in putting pressure among leaders to act swiftly and save lives .
    Respectfully, we believe that your Holiness , as prominent church leader , will continue to be a voice for the voiceless of People of Tigray,by maintain your already imparted support,in this very grave matter.
    Your Holiness ,Numbers 6:24-26-The LORD bless thee, and keep thee

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