Death of Abouna Salama - Sketch of his Life and Career - Grievances of Theodore against him - His Imprisonment at Magdala - The Wallo Gallas - Their Habits and Customs - Menilek appears with an Army in the Galla Country - His Policy...
On the 25th of October, Abouna Salama (the Bishop of Abyssinia) died after a long and painful illness.
Abouna Salama was in many respects a remarkable man. Two such characters as Theodore and himself are seldom met with at the same time in those distant lands. Both ambitious, both proud, both passionate, it was inevitable that sooner or later they must come into collision, and the stronger crush the weaker.
Abyssinia had been for years without a bishop. Priests could no more be consecrated, nor new churches dedicated to Christian worship, as the ark could not contain the tabot blessed by the bishop of the land. Ras Ali, although outwardly a Christian and belonging to a converted family, had still too many connections amongst the Mussulman Gallas, his true friends and supporters, to care for more than an apparent profession of the State religion, and troubled himself very little about the inconvenience to which the priesthood was subjected by the long-continued vacancy of the bishopric.
Dejatch Oubie was at that time the semi-independent ruler of Tigre. From the position of a simple governor he had gradually risen to power, and now at the head of a large army strove for the title of Ras. Though still on apparent terms of friendship with Ras Ali, even to a certain degree acknowledging him as his superior, he was all the while secretly exerting his influence to overthrow the Ras's power in order to reign in his stead. For these reasons he despatched some of his chiefs, with Monsignor de Jacobis, an Italian nobleman and Roman Catholic bishop at Massowah, to Egypt, to obtain a bishop for the Abyssinian see; [Footnote: According to the rules of the Abyssinian Church, the bishop must be a Coptic priest ordained at Cairo. The expenses required for the consecration of a bishop amount to about 10,000 dollars] and in order to secure for himself such a powerful weapon as the support of the priesthood, he incurred the heavy expense required for the consecration of an Abouna. De Jacobis made strenuous efforts to have a bishop anointed who would favour the Roman Catholics; but he failed, as the Patriarch chose for that dignity a young man who had received part of his education at an English school at Cairo, and whose views were more in favour of Protestantism than of the Copt's long-standing adversary, the Church of Rome.
Andraos, this young priest, was only in his twentieth year. When informed that he must leave his monastery and the companionship of the monks his friends to proceed to the distant and semi-civilized land of Habesch, he firmly declined the honour proposed for him. He requested his superiors to fix their choice on a worthier man, declaring himself unfit for the dignity so suddenly thrust upon him. His objections were not admitted, and as he still persisted in his refusal, the superior of the convent put him in irons; wherein he should remain, he was told, until he agreed to obey the head of the Coptic Church. Andraos gave in; and having been duly anointed and consecrated Bishop of Abyssinia, under the title of Abouna Salama, with all the pomps and ceremonies proper to the occasion, started shortly afterwards in an English man-of-war, reaching Massowah in the beginning of 1841.
Dejatch Oubie received him with great honours; added numerous villages and large districts to those the hereditary possession of the bishops, and made every endeavour to attach him to his cause. He succeeded even beyond his expectations. Abouna Salama, instead of needing the persuasions of Oubie to join him in the overthrow of Ras Ali, proposed the attempt. Through his influence Oubie concluded an alliance with Goscho Beru, the ruler of Godjam. The two chiefs agreed to march on Debra Tabor, attack Ras Ali, wrest from him the power he had usurped, and divide the government of Abyssinia, confirming the Bishop's alleged rights to a third of the revenue of the land.
Oubie and Goscho Beru kept to their engagements, offered battle to Ras Ali near Debra Tabor, and utterly routed his army; Ras Ali with difficulty escaping from the field with a small body of well-mounted followers. It so happened, however, that Oubie celebrated his success in potations too many and deep. Some of the fugitive soldiers of Ras Ali accidentally entered Oubie's tent, found their master's conqueror in the condition known as dead drunk, and availed themselves of his helpless condition to make him their prisoner. This sudden contretemps changed the aspect of affairs. Certain well-mounted horsemen galloped after Ras Ali and succeeded in overtaking him towards evening. He would not at first believe in his good fortune; but others of his soldiers arriving and confirming the glad tidings, he returned to Debra Tabor, reunited his scattered followers, and was able to dictate terms to his captive conqueror. Oubie was pardoned and allowed to return to Tigre, the Bishop being answerable for his fidelity. Ras Ali treated the Bishop with all respect, fell at his feet and implored him not to listen to the calumnies of his enemies, assuring him that the Church had no more faithful son than himself, nor any more willing to comply with the holy father's wishes. The Bishop, now on friendly terms with all parties, and all but worshipped by them, soon made his authority felt; and had not Theodore risen from obscurity, Abouna Salama would, no doubt, have been the Hildebrand of Abyssinia.