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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 August 2005, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Eritrea denies patriarch sacked
Eritrea priests
The Orthodox Church has been in Eritrea for 1600 years
The Eritrean government has denied reports that the head of the Orthodox Church, Patriach Abune Antonios, had been dismissed from his position.

Last week, diplomatic sources confirmed an opposition website report that the patriarch was replaced following a meeting with government officials.

Patriarch Antonios reportedly objected to government interference in the church and the arrest of three priests.

The Orthodox Church is one of the four recognised religions in Eritrea.

Our state system is secular, that is separate from religion
Information Minister Ali Abdu

Information Minister Ali Abdu told the AFP news agency the patriarch was still at his post, and dismissed the website report as "trash".

"Our state system is secular, that is separate from religion," he said.

"The synod elects the patriarch, it is a sovereign entity, it chooses the job descriptions and job divisions."

The Orthodox Church was established in Eritrea 1600 years ago and is the largest Christian denomination in the country.

There are similar numbers of Christians and Muslims in Eritrea.

Eritrea suspends US aid efforts
26 Aug 05 |  Africa
Country profile: Eritrea
16 Jul 04 |  Country profiles

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