The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, one of the oldest in the world, said the crisis that hit it after a group of archbishops set up a separate synod has been resolved.
The church said on Facebook late Wednesday that the three bishops who held their synod in Oromia, the country’s largest and most populous region in the Horn of Africa, had apologized.
“Recent issues within the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church have been resolved through face-to-face discussions,” the statement said.
The three archbishops were expelled last month after their defection, which religious authorities deemed illegal. The statement added that they will be reinstated.
The announcement came hours after a meeting between the two parties and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, himself an Oromo, who has been accused by the patriarchate of supporting the dissidents.
Mister. Abiy said at the meeting, “This church is strong and we have decided to bring back the lost sheep.”
Representing around 40% of Ethiopia’s 115 million people, the Tewahedo Church, led for a decade by Patriarch Abune Mathias, has been hit hard by the crisis, which has taken place amid political tensions between the state and the Oromia region.
In early February, eight people were killed in an attack on a church in Oromia, according to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.
The European Commission on Human Rights also condemned “the beatings, intimidation, evictions from churches (…) and unlawful arrests in various regions against individuals and clergy who opposed those they claimed to be forming a ‘new synod'”.
Dissident priests have accused the church of linguistic and cultural discrimination and hegemony, arguing that it does not address the communities in Oromia in their native language.
The Patriarchate denied the claims and once called for peaceful demonstrations, which were eventually called off.
In its Wednesday statement, the church said it would provide new resources to expand Oromo language ministry in Oromia and other parts of southern Uganda.