Imperial Funeral Events October 30th - November 5th, 2000

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  • His Imperial Majesty, the Late Emperor Haile Selassie I, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God, Defender of the Faith, King of Kings of Ethiopia. Born 1892, Crown Prince and Regent 1917, King and Regent1928, Emperor of Ethiopia 1930, Deposed 1974, Died 1975

    His Late Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I died in the wee hours of August 28th, 1975, at his place of detention on the grounds of the Imperial Palace (also known as the Menelik Palace, Grand Palace or Great Guibi). The circumstances surrounding his death are shrouded in mystery, but it is generally believed that the Emperor was suffocated in his bed on the orders of the ruling communist junta, the Derg. The earthly remains of the 225th Emperor of the Solomonic Dynasty of Ethiopia, were placed in a deep pit on the grounds of the palace, and the Ethiopian dictator, Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam built a latrine directly over the secret grave. Upon the fall of the communist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam, the new transitional government authorized the disinternment of the remains which were then handed over to the Imperial family. Due to disputes with the new government as to whether the Emperor was entitled to a state funeral, the burial was further postponed. The remains of the Emperor were placed in the custody of the St. Mary Ba'ita Church (The Church of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary to the Temple)which was also the masoleum of Emperor Menelik II and Empress Zewditu, his two predecessors on the Throne of Solomon. Emperor Haile Selassie had built for himself a large granite sarcophagus in the nave of Holy Trinity Cathedral, and a matching one next to it for his late wife, Empress Menen. Due to the 1974 revolution, the remains of the late Empress had been left in her original grave in the crypt below the Cathedral, among the graves of her children. According to the wishes of the Emperor to be buried next to his wife, her late Majesty's remains were moved to the sarcophagus in a special chapel in the north trancept of the Nave in the days before the final burial of the bones of last Emperor of Ethiopia. As the government of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia had not authorized a state funeral, the Imperial burial ceremonies were conducted by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the Haile Selassie I Memorial Committee and the War Veterans Association, and the Ethiopian people at large. No national holiday was declared, no government or military participation took place. All guests, foriegn and domestic attended in a strictly private capacity (although numerous diplomats were in attendance).

    The Program was as Follows

    October 30th,2000- In the presence of members of the extended Imperial family, and Heirarchs of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church, the earthly remains of Her Late Majesty, Empress Menen were disintered from her tomb in the Crypt of Holy Trinity Cathedral, and carried up into the Nave of the Church to be placed in the Sarcophagus built for her by Emperor Haile Selassie next to his own. This fulfills the wishes of the Emperor that his wife be buried at his side. Following this event, the earthly remains of the late Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen (Emperor-in-Exile Amha Selassie) were transfered from his tomb into the one vacated by the late Empress, as that grave has precidence of position in the crypt among the various royal tombs, and he is now the highest ranking royal buried in the crypt below the church.

    November 1st,2000- The Government of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia issues a virulent attack on the memory of the Emperor, labeling him an oppressor and a thief.

    November 2nd,2000- Memorial Services were held in Orthodox Churches accross Ethiopia to mark the 70th anniversary of the Coronation of the Emperor. Members of the Imperial Family attended the services at the Ba'ita St. Mary monastery where the Emperor's remains are housed temporarily. The small coffin was brought out of the Crypt into the main church and covered with a rich silver embroyedered pall, and prayers were said over the remains of the Emperor at the Ba'ita St. Mary Church.

    November 4th, 2000- In an angry reaction to the government statement issued two days before, Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie and Prince Bekere Fikre Selassie leave Ethiopia without attending the Funeral services and issue a strongly worded denunciation of the government statement.The rest of the Imperial Family continued to sit vigil and recieved those wishing to pay respects. Prayers continued over the earthly remains, which are transfered into a larger coffin. The embroyedered pall is replaced by the Imperial standard as the coffin covering.

    November 5th, 2000- His Holiness Abune Paulos, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, their Eminences the Archbishops, their Graces the Bishops, and various clergy, members of the Imperial Family, members of the Veterans Association, and members of the Organizing Committee attended the funeral mass at the Monastery Church of St. Mary Ba'ita. During the f mass and requieum said by the Patriarch, prayers were also offered for the late monarchs, Emperor Yohannis IV, Emperor Menelik II and his wife Taitu, Empress Zewditu, and Emperor Haile Selassie's late wife and children in addition to His Late Majesty. After the mass was said, the coffin was taken out to the front of the church where it was handed over to the special honor guard of war veterans. His Exelency, Bitwoded Zewde Gebre Hiwot, former president of the Imperial Senate, former Lord Mayor of Addis Ababa, and President of the Haile Selassie I Memorial Commitee addressed the public. His Holiness the Patriarch also gave a speach on the huge contributions of Emperor Haile Selassie to the church, the country, Africa, and the world. The choirs and clergy then chanted and sang hymns over the remains. Ethio-Italian War veterans in traditional warrior garb, escorted the earthly remains of Emperor Haile Selassie from the Masoleum Church of St. Mary Ba'ita, to Maskal Square (Square of the Holy Cross) where a public ceremony was held at which His Imperial Highness Prince Beide Mariam Makonnen spoke. The cortege then went in procession, first to St. George's Cathedral, then to Holy Trinity Cathedral where after a final interment service, the remains of Emperor Haile Selassie I were interred next to his late wife, in the Nave. Princess Mariam Senna Amha Selassie addressed the mourners to thank them on behalf of the Imperial Family. Her speech was repeated in English by Lij Yohannis Mengesha, great-grandson of Emperor Haile Selassie, and son of Ras Mengesha Seyoum, Hereditary Prince of Tigrai. His Holiness Abune Paulos, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church fed 5000 homeless people at the Cathedrals of St. George and the Holy Trinity on this day in the blessed memory of the late Emperor of Ethiopia.

    Rest in Peace

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