Axum | The Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, His Holiness Abune Mathias, announced this morning that the most prized biblical treasure in the world, the Ark of Covenant, was stolen last night from the catacombs of the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion. The guardians of the artefact were allegedly put to sleep through the use of chemical weapons, before the robbers entered the crypt and stole the precious Holy item.
The criminal operation was reportedly executed by a team of 12 to 16 highly-trained professionals who travelled aboard two black military helicopters. They landed less than 500 meters away from their objective after allegedly arriving from the East. The men were dressed in black military-style uniforms and seemed to function as a well coordinated army unit. They were equipped with night-vision equipment and armed with high caliber weapons, giving them an incredible advantage over the local security forces.
The 11 guards and armed volunteers present on the site to defend the Ark were neutralized by the thieves, using some high technology grenades that released a rare opium-based soporific gas. The robbers then went into strenuous labor, using jackhammers and explosives to enlarge the corridors in various locations inside the catacombs leading to the Ark, in order to be able to remove the large chest from its underground vault.
The entire operation was over in less than an hour, an incredibly short time considering the number of obstacles that had to be overcome. This amazing efficiency suggests that the thieves had repeated the operation and had carefully prepared their crime.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church claims to possess the Ark of the Covenant in a chapel in the small town of Axum, in their country’s northern Highlands. It arrived nearly 3,000 years ago, they say, and has been guarded by a succession of virgin monks who, once anointed, are forbidden to set foot outside the chapel grounds until they die. No one except the Guardians are ever allowed to see the Ark, not even the Patriarch of the Church.
The story is told in the Kebra Negast (in Ge’ez language, Glory of the Kings), Ethiopia’s chronicle of its royal line: the Queen of Sheba, one of its first rulers, traveled to Jerusalem to benefit from King Solomon’s wisdom; on her way home, she bore Solomon’s son, Menelik. A few years later, Menelik went to visit his father, and on his return journey was accompanied by the firstborn sons of some Israelite nobles—who, unbeknown to him, stole the ark and carried it with them to Ethiopia.
When Menelik learned of the theft, he reasoned that since the ark’s frightful powers hadn’t destroyed his retinue, it must be God’s will that it remain with him. It was then presumably kept in the islands of Lake Tana for about four hundred years and finally taken to Axum, where it was kept safe for more than two thousand years.
The disappearance of the Ark is certainly dramatic news for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, as much of its prestige came from the possession of the relic and many of its rituals were centered on it. His Holiness Abune Mathias was visibly emotional when he made the announcement many of the journalists and faithfuls present for the press conference, burst into tears when they heard the news.