Patriarch’s sidekick speaks out
The Patriarch’s unofficial close advisor, Woizero Ejigayehu Beyene, denied abusing her power and influence at the Ethiopian Orthodox Church for unlawful personal gain.
Ejigayehu, 66, worked as vice-chairwoman of the Ethiopian Orthodox’s Jerusalem Memorial Association for a number of years before leaving to establish her own tour company. With a reputation for wielding a great deal of power with the highest figure of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abune Paulos, she has been portrayed in many unflattering ways. It is alleged that she is involved in dubious business deals and stealing clients of the Association, which arranges tour packages for church members to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem and other holy sites. It is claimed the travel agency that she has set up, Keranyo in Jerusalem tour, is benefiting at the expense of the Association.
In one of the few interviews she has granted to the media, Ejigayehu said that there has been hate-filled ranting towards her and the Patriarch which she said emanated from “blind, irrational prejudice”.
“I have not had any favor from anyone. Like any member of the Church, I’ve had holy fathers assigned for me for the Easter tour I led to Jerusalem. Thanks to God, I managed to take around 206 people with the presence their Holiness Abune Yared and Abune Sabiros, “she said.
The self-styled advisor of the Patriarch is also cited as being the originator of the idea to construct the Patriarchies’ statue at Bole Medhani Alem which displeased many members of the church who say run roughshod over the canons of the church. Ejigayehu defended the action by saying that another Patriarch Abune Baslios has also erected his own statue at Tsige Maryam church on the road to Debre Libanos.
Directing the attack at Abune Paulos’s statue is not fair and evenhanded, she argued.
Despite talk of decision to have Abune Pualo’s statue removed, Ejigayehu said there is no way that it would happen. ”The statue is there, it will be there. It will never go away” she said.
Ejigayehu also responded to accusations that she is unjustly using the Synod’s building as her own personal bureau. She said there is nothing fraudulent about it and she secured the bureau after bidding in a tender against other contestants and she pays 6,000 birr per month for it.
Another complaint against her is her son is using a church’s property located in Arat kilo as his residence. Woizero Ejigayehu said that she was given an old crumbling house by a bishop, Abune Kerlos and has transformed it into a new edifice by spending 284 thousand birr out of her pocket.
Asked about the scandal surrounding her, Ejigayehu said: ” They are unkind, envious and spiteful comments.I use righteousness to overcome evil,” she said. She said she should be praised as role model “for accomplishing this at my age”.
Ejiagayehu said she holds Abune Paulos in great affection. “He is tolerant, pardoning and reasonable.” She advised other Christians not stop admiring and respecting him, because he represents Christ the Head of the Church and has received Christ’s power to teach, sanctify and rule.
Asked to react on Mahebre Kidusan’s (an association in the name of Saints) claim that it is her who causes a rift among church leaders, she said that she didn’t know the existence of an association that calls itself “holy”. “Those who smear people’s name are nothing but dark and evil,” she added. She said the accusation didn’t distract her from her mission of serving the church.
A member of the Mahebre kidusan told Addis Journal that “her comments are completely irrational and are designed to insult the integrity of the association and damn an entire generation of Christians”.
Ejigayehu first came to public attention in 1963 when she won Miss Ethiopia contest and became even more popular when she married an Ethiopian music giant Mahmoud Ahmed years later. She said the breaking up her 18-year marriage to Mahamoud caused her lots of stress. “I didn’t want it. It was his wish. We have not had that much of a difference. When I least expectedit, he told me that he didn’t want to be with me.I guess it wasn’t just meant to be. Well, if he wanted that I am confident enough to say okay.”
Ejigayehu said her friendship with Abune Paulos dates back to the mid 1980s in America when he was head church of the Los Angeles St. Mary Church.
It is speculated that Ejigayehu had been forced to give the interview in an attempt to soften her image. Whether that attempt will work out or not remains to be seen.