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Juliet makes sad pilgrimage for long-time friend's service

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  • Rev. Fr. John-Brian Paprock
    http://www.theroyalgazette.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article? AID=/20060210/MIDOCEAN/102100116 Article published Feb 10, 2006 Juliet makes sad pilgrimage for long-time
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 11, 2006

      Article published Feb 10, 2006
      Juliet makes sad pilgrimage for long-time friend's service

      BERMUDIAN Juliet Wilkinson made a sad pilgrimage to Jamaica last
      month to attend a thanksgiving service for her long-time friend Abuna
      Yesehaq, Ethiopian Orthodox Church Archbishop in the Western
      Hemisphere – held at the same National Arena in Kingston where she
      watched the late cleric preside over the memorial service for reggae
      superstar Bob Marley in 1981.

      Ms Wilkinson, who befriended the Ethiopian cleric in 1980 and
      remained close to him until his death December, said the Archbishop –
      a monk from the age of three – had no children of his own but treated
      those in his inner-circle as an unofficial extended family.
      "He was such a good friend," said Ms Wilkinson. "I first met His
      Eminence in 1980 and considered him a friend, a confidante – in some
      ways my father and my mother.

      "When I was around him I truly felt I was in the presence of a holy
      man, a devout Christian man from many generations back.

      "Although I am not a member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, he did
      bless me and gave me an Ethiopian name which means 'My Light'."

      Abba Laike Mandefro was born in Addis Ababa in 1933. He attended
      first lay then liturgical schools in Ethiopia and was ordained a
      deacon and priest there. The young prelate was among several taken
      under Emperor's Haile Selassie's wing. Abba Laike Mandfredo was
      invested as Abuna Yesahaq, Archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox
      Church in the Western Hemisphere, in 1979.

      He established the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Bermuda as part of
      his mission and visited the island at least four times, the last
      visit coming in the late 1990s when he presided at a funeral here.
      Archbishop Abuna Yesehaq was perhaps best known to the non-religious
      world as godfather and spiritual adviser to Bob and Rita Marley and
      their children. He is credited with introducing Ethiopian Orthodox
      Christianity to Rastafarians throughout the Caribbean region,
      baptised an estimated 45,000 of them into the church.

      His most famous Rastafarian convert was Marley.

      "I did baptise Bob Marley in the presence of his wife Rita and his
      children. Only the family, because he was not so willing to have it
      officially, it was difficult for him . . . which I don't want to
      describe," he told the Jamaican Gleaner newspaper in 1984.
      Although Marley's conversion was shrouded in secrecy during his
      lifetime to avoid offending Rastafarian sensibilities, Archbishop
      Yesehaq did send a photograph of the ceremony to Miss Wilkinson in
      Bermuda which has never before been published.

      Ms Wilkinson was visiting Jamaica and staying with Abuna Yesehaq when
      Bob Marley succumbed to cancer in 1981.

      "His Eminence was actually living in Bob Marley's homestead at the
      time – his retinue on one side of the property, the Marley family on
      the other side," recalled Ms Wilkinson. "The day before the funeral
      the Marley family was in and out all day, visiting with him and being
      consoled by him.

      "That evening, after His Eminence had finished giving dictation to
      his secretary, he went into his room. At first I smelled incense.
      Later on I heard him begin chanting in (the ancient Ethiopian
      languages) Geez and Amharic.

      "He was praying for Bob. He sang from about nine in the evening until
      the crack of dawn. I don't know if you have ever heard these
      languages but it was like listening to the angels sing. It was

      "The next day, of course, he had to preside over Bob Marley's funeral
      at the National Stadium in Kingston."

      THE funeral attracted tens of thousands of mourners, Miss Wilkinson
      recalled. From her vantage place as a guest of the Archbishop, she
      listened to readings from the Bible by Jamaica's Governor General,
      and by Michael Manley, then Leader of the Opposition Party. Edward
      Seaga, the Prime Minister, eulogised Marley.

      Marley's band The Wailers, with the I-Threes (Rita Marley, Judy
      Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths), backing them up on vocals, performed
      some of his songs. The Melody Makers, a group consisting of four of
      Bob and Rita Marley's children, led by their eldest son Ziggy, also
      performed in his honour. His mother, Mrs. Cedella Booker, sang Coming
      In From the Cold, one of the last songs Marley wrote.

      Abuna Yesehaq died at the Beth Israel Hospital in New Jersey on
      Thursday, December 22, 2005 at the age of 72. His funeral at the
      National Arena in Jamaica on January 20 drew hundreds of mourners
      including Jamaican politicians, celebrities and members of the
      Rastafarian community.

      AMONG those who paid glowing tributes to the late Archbishop's life
      and work during the service of thanksgiving at the National Arena
      were Dr. Peter Phillips, the National Security Minister, Bruce
      Golding, the Opposition Leader, Portia Simpson Miller, the Local
      Government Minister, and Rev. Ashley Smith from the United
      Theological College of the West Indies.

      The Attorney General, A.J. Nicholson, represented Prime Minister P.J.

      The Archbishop, who established branches of the Ethiopian Orthodox
      Church in Jamaica, Bermuda, England, Canada, South Africa, Trinidad
      and Tobago, the US Virgin Islands, Guyana and St. Kitts, had
      specifically requested to be buried in Jamaica.

      "The most important reason he is being buried in Jamaica, is because
      he came here on a mission specifically directed by His Majesty,
      Emperor Haile Selassie I, to establish the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
      This was because of the love the Jamaican people have for Ethiopia
      and His Majesty," a spokesperson of the church explained to the
      Jamaica Observer newspaper.

      At the funeral, Dr. Phillips echoed similar sentiments.

      "It is a tribute to his love for us . . . his love for the people of
      Jamaica and the people of the western hemisphere, but it is a special
      tribute that he does for us when he wished that out of all the
      countries in the Western hemisphere which he served, he wished for
      his remains to be here in Jamaica," Dr. Phillips explained.

      Ms Wilkinson said the funeral service – marked by lengthy rituals of
      liturgical drumming and chanting in the ancient Ethiopian languages
      of Geez and Amharic – was "overwhelming".

      "It was a beautiful experience," she said.
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