Concern Grows Over Eritrean Abune Antonios's Health
Concern had been growing about government interference in religious affairs and Patriarch Antonios increasingly resisted government interference, especially instructions emanating from Mr. Yeftehe Dimetros, the government’s official responsible for church matters. In January 2005 the Patriarch’s annual Nativity message was not broadcast or televised and the Eritrean Holy Synod met on 6-7 August 2005 with the main purpose of removing all executive authority from the Patriarch. Among accusations brought against the Patriarch, were his reluctance to excommunicate 3,000 members of the Medhane Alem, an Orthodox Sunday School movement, and his demands that the government should release imprisoned Christians accused of treason. He was allowed to officiate at church services but prohibited from having any administrative rôle in church affairs.
On 13 January 2006 a secret session of the Holy Synod was held in Asmara which formally removed the Patriarch from office and his detention was tightened to ensure he remained incommunicado. On 20 January, 2007, two priests accompanied by three security agents of the government entered the Patriarch’s residence and confiscated his personal pontifical insignia.