17 Aug 2012

Death of Ethiopian Orthodox Church head

10:03 am on 17 August 2012

The head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abune Paulos, has died.

The patriarch's office is due to hold an emergency meeting on Friday to finalise arrangements for what is expected to be a state funeral.

Abune Paulos, 76, led Ethiopia's 40 million Orthodox Christians - half the population - since 1992.

The patriarch was taken to hospital in the capital, Addis Ababa on Wednesday and died early on Thursday morning.

The BBC reports Abune Paulos was chosen to lead the church in 1992 - a year after the overthrow of the government of Mengistu Haile Mariam.

He had been imprisoned under Mengistu in the 1970s and then went into exile in the United States.

Ethiopia has some of the word's oldest churches. The Orthodox Church used to be part of Egypt's Coptic Christian Church, but has had own patriarch since 1959.