Abuna Yesehaq, R.I.P.
One of the pivotal figures of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Abuna Yesehaq (Laike Mandefro) passed away in Newark, New Jersey, on December 29, 2005. He was 72. Ethiopian Emperor Haile-Selassie sent Abuna Yesehaq ("Fr. Isaac") to the West in 1962, after his royal majesty encountered a number of Jamaican Rastafarians who worshipped the emperor instead of God. By 1979, Abuna was given the title Archbishop of the Western Hemisphere and South Africa. He became best known for presiding over the funeral of reggae artist Bob Marley in 1981. Abuna established dozens of churches in the West and converted tens of thousands, especially former Rastis in the Caribbean. In the 1990s, Abuna claimed the church did not have the right to elect a new patriarch, Paulos (who is his cousin), while the former patriarch is still alive, and broke communion with Addis Ababa. Patriarch Paulos, in turn, carved the Western hemisphere into three dioceses and appointed Abuna Matthias of London, Ontario, as bishop for North America.
One of Abuna Yesehaq's last acts was to accept a number of Western Rite parishes under his patronage. What will happen to them after his passing is not yet known. Our prayer is that God will re-establish these parishes -- and all Oriental Orthodox -- in visible unity with the Byzantine Orthodox, ut unum sint.
On January 12, a Washington, D.C., parish Abuna founded celebrated a nearly 10-hour funeral liturgy for him. His body will be flown to Jamaica, where he will be buried. R.I.P.
Labels: Oriental Orthodox