Here’s the gist of it:
The patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia [Abuna Pauolos] says he will announce to the world Friday the unveiling of the Ark of the Covenant, perhaps the world’s most prized archaeological and spiritual artifact, which he says has been hidden away in a church in his country for millennia, according to the Italian news agency Adnkronos.
“The Ark of the Covenant is in Ethiopia for many centuries,” said Pauolos. “As a patriarch I have seen it with my own eyes and only few highly qualified persons could do the same, until now.”
According to Pauolos, the actual Ark has been kept in one church, but to defend the treasure, a copy was placed in every single church in Ethiopia. (emphasis added)
Golly gee, sure wish I could have been one of those “few highly qualified persons.” The point is that we are all, each and every one of us, among those “few highly qualified persons.” What the patriarch likely means by his phraseology is that it is the priests and bishops of his church who alone are the “only few highly qualified persons.”
As for making copies of the ark, and placing them in “every single church in Ethiopia,” one presumes that the Ethiopians had access to a lot of gold and shittim wood. Of course, since only the “few highly qualified persons” could gaze on the Holy of Holies, they likely did not come prepared to test the gold and shittim wood for authenticity.
It’s almost certain this is a fraudulent claim, along the lines of those who claimed to have a piece of the One True Cross. Make no mistake, however: If the actual Ark of the Covenant, with the actual tablets of the Ten Commandments, were to be found, it would be a marvelous thing. But it is not a necessary thing; our faith must not depend on any artifact, however holy its provenance.
A final note on the category for this post: idolatry. The whole business of the Ark of the Covenant strikes me thus. The Ark, if it still exists, is just a man-made thing. Inspired by God? Of course. Just the thing for a primitive tribe in the Near East some 3,400 years ago. I believe that God used the Ark to reveal himself to the tribes of Israel in a way that they could understand. With the coming of Jesus Christ, I’d like to believe that we no longer need such tokens to keep our faith.