The great grandparents and grandparents of his holiness Abune Yacob were righteous folk, and fearers of God, and they loved to give alms and gifts to the poor and needy. They donated not only their time, effort and wealth but also their productive farmland to the Monastery of Tsaida Imba Slase.
Kelati, the great grandparent, had two children, Siilezion and Ogbazion. Ogbazion’s sons were Tesfagiorgis and Amdegiorgis. Ogbazion wanted to give one of his sons to the Monastery, but the elders of Idrba, their village, wouldn’t hear of him, reasoning that he does not have other children.
Later Amdegiorgis married a God fearing woman by the name of Welete kidusan, and they gave birth to His Holiness Abune Yacob on July 05 1917 Geez Calander (1925 G.C) at Wesbenserek, Sub zone Ila beriid, Anseba region.
After the traditional forty days, they baptized the child at the Church of St Michael’s and gave him a name. “Tekle Mariam’.
Tekle Mariam grew up with his parents, herding sheep and goats.
During His childhood he was taken to Tzaeda Emba Holy Trinity Monastery, and studied reading of the Holy Scriptures, Psalmody, Horologium, and hymnody, after which he was ordained as a deacon in 1930 by His Grace Abune Marcos, the first Bishop of the Eritrean Orthodox Church.
Then he went back to his village and devoted his time to the service of God and His Church, serving as a deacon. Tekle Mariam’s father, Amdegiorgis, was a prominent village Administrator, highly skilled and diligent organizer, who was the driving force behind the villages effort to build Saint Michael’s Church at Idrba. Amdegiorgis died suddenly, and the village elders wanted Tekle Mariam to get married and settle there.
At that time, Tekle Mariam’s thoughts were only about monastisism, and the idea of ascetism moved in his heart continually. But the desire of his relatives was that he would get married and have children. As his desire for eremitic life was too great, and his relatives would not give up the idea of his marriage, he was compelled to go to a distant monastery, leaving his parents and his parish in order to be able to fulfill his aspiration. Consequently, he went to Abune Yonas Monastery, which is located in the Southern Zone, Sub Zone Mai-Mine.
At the Monastery, he became a disciple of the monks, and served the elderly and the sick, while taking various church courses like: liturgical and other chants (TZEWATWE ZIEMA), Geez grammar (SEWASWE GEEZ), Idiomatic Chanting (KINIE), Exegesis and Exposition (TIRGUAME METZAHFTI), Chanting (AQUAQUAM), Liturgical Teachings (Teachings of the Holy Mass- SIRATE KIDASIE) and Writing in Parchments (TZIHIFETE BRANA).
He specialized in the last two’, and served as a teacher of the same for several years in the monastery.
The Fathers of the Monastery saw Tekle Mariam’s intent and, in 1938 J.C arrayed him in the garb of the monastic life. He was given the name “Aba Tekle Mariam” and he renewed his devotion. Later he was ordained as a priest by His Grace Abune Markos. He was appointed as a Qomos by His Eminence Abune Athanasius.
Thereafter, Aba Tekle Mariam served the Monastery by teaching prospective scholars and disciples for ten years. Soon he was appointed as a spokesman (afe memhir) of the aged Abbot of the monastery. As a result he was given a name of AfeMemhir Teclemariam. He served the monastery for about four years in this capacity.
In 1953 J.C he was appointed to serve as a General Secretary and a judge of the spiritual tribunal in the Bishopric Office in Asmara by the Archbishop of the Eritrean Diocese of that time, HE Abune Atnatewos. In addition he was serving as a preacher in all churches in Asmara in general, and in St Mary Church in particular.
At that time, due to the overwhelming conditions of war of independence in Eritrea, he represented the Church and participated at the Peace Convention, and played a significant part in bringing about consensus on the issues raised.
He also contributed much towards the campaigns then underway towards eliminating illiteracy and enhancing adult education and was awarded a certificate of recognition for his efforts.
Aba Tekle Mariam worked hard to expand the services of the Church as well as to strengthen the Faith. His contemporaries fondly remember his ardent participation in the ecclesiastical meetings and his apostolic tours to all parts of Eritrea. His role in setting up and strengthening parish administration, as well as his untiring efforts to organize and teach Sunday school students were exemplary.
During the time of the Derg, the Marxist regime of Ethiopia, HE Abune Yacob was twice chosen as a number one contender from the Eritrean candidates during a screening election for a bishop. But he couldn’t succeed in the final election, which took place in Addis Ababa. The reason why he couldn’t make it was simply that he was considered as being associated with the independence fighters and because of his Eritrean Origins.
Nonetheless, after a repeated nomination for bishopric by the Eritrean monasteries, the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Church finally elected and anointed Aba Tekle Mariam to be “Abune Yacob, Bishop of Addis Ababa”, after being chosen as a first candidate from among several other Eritrean monks and was consecrated in the year 1980 (E.C).
His Grace Abune Yacob was accompanying His Holiness Abune Tekle Haymanot, the Third Patriarch of the Church of Ethiopia, in an apostolic tour, when suddenly the later fell ill and died. Then members of the Holy Synod held a discussion regarding his (Abune Yacob’s) next assignment. They were reluctant to assign him to Eritrea due to political reasons. Hence, he was assigned a new Diocese, the Gonder Diocese in Ethiopia, by the fourth Patriarch of the Ethiopian Church, His Holines Abune Mercorius.
Abune Yacob served his Diocese with wisdom and humility.
After the independence of Eritrea, and the change of government in Ethiopia, HE Abune Yacob was chosen by the Holy Synod to act as an acting patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and a Chairman of the “Patriarch Electoral Committee”, following the abdication of Patriarch Abune Mercorios in 1991 G.C.
Although he had such position and honor in the Ethiopian Church, following the split of the Eritrean Orthodox Church from the Ethiopian Church, he decided to come to his country Eritrea and serve in any position. As soon as he came he was assigned variously as: a Chief Administrator of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church, Assistant to the Patriarch and Vice Chairman of the Holy Synod.
Following the death of HH Abune Philipos, the First Patriarch, HE Abune Yacob was assigned to act as an acting patriarch.
Because of his seniority and immense experience as well as the meekness of the other bishops and archbishops, by unanimous vote of its holy synod, he was elected and consecrated to be the Second Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church, on December 4, 2002.
This day was a historic day as it was the first time that the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church elected and anointed its own patriarch.
On Ascending in his throne, His Holiness Abune Yacob resumed his apostolic tours, preaching and other leadership roles with a renewed vigor/zeal. His commitment and enthusiasm to broaden the field of services for the scholars and clergy of the Church, as well as empowering Sunday school students deserve special mention.
The clergy and the faithful loved His Holiness Abune Yacob for his outstanding humility and saintliness/piousness. The Second Patriarch was a man of prayers, so much so that God reveal the holiness of the patriarch to the people through signs and miracles. On July 7 (Holy Trinity Day), a rainbow that appeared from the East to the West followed/accompanied Abune Yacob, who was entering the Church. This was seen by all the faithful, and is recorded in a video camera.
His Holiness Abune Yacob was not only a preacher, he was also a writer. He authored three books on: Book of Worship and Order, Rituals of the Church, and Veneration of the Theotoks, Virgin Mary.
The untiring “apostle” of our age, His Holiness Abune Yacob reigned only briefly before his sudden/short illness and untimely death on 1 December 2003.
He was entered temporarily at the Debre Zion Saint Mary cathedral, Asmara, and later (his remains) was exhumed and transferred to his preferred burial place, at the Debre Dhuhan Monastery of Abune Yonas.
“We also ask the Almighty God, the Father of our Lord God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. We ask and entreat Your goodness O’ Lover of mankind; Remember O’ Lord the souls of your servants who departed, our fathers the bishops, and foregive us our sins” (liturgy of St Basil No. 77). May the Good Lord grant us to follow on the footsteps of, our father among the Saints, His Holiness Abune Yacob.
Glory to God!