November 8, 2020
Archbishop Abune Melketsedek passed away reportedly passed away on Saturday at the age of 97. He passed away in his Archdiocese of California.
Solomon Kibriye wrote a brief story of his life and services. And we have shared it below :
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has lost one of its most prominent hierarchs. His Eminence Archbishop Abune Melketsedek passed away yesterday in his Archdiocese of California after a lengthy illness at the age of 97.
Abune Melketsedek before his elevation to the episcopacy was known as Liqe Siltanat Abba Habte Mariam Workineh. As a young clergyman he had been sent abroad to study theology in Greece, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Turkey. He would then serve as the long time dean of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa. He was the second person to hold the title of Liqe Siltanat which was created for that position (the first was Abba Meliktu Jenbere who became Patriarch Abune Theophilos). As Liqe Siltanat Abba Habte Mariam, he served Emperor Haile Selassie I as special advisor on religious affairs and was among the most powerful and prominent members of the clergy in the later half of the Emperor’s reign. He was also a prolific author throughout his life. He was among the first clergymen to be imprisoned by the Marxist Derg regime that deposed the monarchy. He was released from prison after 7 years and returned to a prominent role in the Patriarchate where he was still deeply respected. He was elevated to the episcopacy under Patriarch Abune Merkorios, and served as Dean of the Sts. Peter and Paul Seminary. He objected vociferously to the removal from the Patriarchal throne of Abune Merkorios in 1991, and became the guiding force behind the establishment of the exile synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church that refused to recognize the deposition of Abune Merkorios. Abune Melketsedek was based in Northern California, but traveled extensively in his role as Secretary-General of the Exile Synod visiting its churches and playing an active role in the expansion of Ethiopian Orthodoxy across North America. After years of negotiations at reconciliation which was encumbered by the hostility of the then Ethiopian government, a breakthrough was achieved with the active endorsement by Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in July 2018, and the schism ended with Abune Merkorios returning to Ethiopia to share the Patriarchal throne with Abune Mathias. Abune Melketsedek returned briefly to Ethiopia for the first time in 26 years, but returned to California where he was named titular Archbishop of California (with Bishops for Northern and Southern California actually performing most episcopal functions due to his declining health).
Among the photographs I have chosen to post are one showing him as Liqe Siltanat holding the gospels to be kissed by Emperor Haile Selassie to welcome him to Holy Trinity Cathedral, and one as Archbishop with his cross being kissed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Personally this is a sad loss for me. His eminence was our family confessor (Niseha Abat) and was the person who gave me my name. My father first met him when he was commissioned by the Emperor to build the high altar of Holy Trinity Cathedral, and my parents were close to him for decades, through his imprisonment and after.
May His Eminence rest among the blessed fathers, and may his memory be eternal.
✍🏾 Solomon Kibriye
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