Blessed Ghebre Mikael

For Ghebre-Mikael, a martyr in search for the truth, knowledge of the various theological factions was insufficient. He wanted the truth handed down in the Scriptures, expressed by the Fathers of the Church, formulated in the early Councils of the Church and to which a living Church bore unalterable fidelity.

1788 Born
1813 Doctorate in Ecclesiastic Sciences and became monk
1814 to 1825 Pilgrimage of knowledge
1842 Visit to Rome in February
1844 Received in the Catholic Church
1851 Secretly ordained priest on 1st January
1854, July Imprisonment followed by terrible torture
1855, 29 August Died
1926, 31 October Beatified as a martyr by Pope Pius XI
30 August Feast day

Ghebre Mikael was born in 1788 to an Orthodox family in Ethiopia at Dibo, Gjam province, near the Monastery of Mertule Mariam. He had his secondary education at the monastic school of this monastery and became a novice there.

For six years he faithfully performed the various duties of his state as a monk and carefully studied the whole Bible, the early Councils and the Fathers of the Church and all the other documents he could find. In 1813 he was named “Doctor in Ecclesiastic Sciences”. But his thirst to drink deeper was unquenchable; so he began a pilgrimage of knowledge to the most prestigious monasteries of Ethiopia and Eritrea (1814-1825).

Dejazmatch Wiebie, the Prince of Tigray, appointed him as a member of the delegation to Cairo to ask for a new bishop for Ethiopia, because of its jurisdictional link. For safety reasons, this delegation was accompanied by a Catholic priest, Justin de Jacobis.  For accepting such a mission, Justin put the condition of bringing the delegates to Rome with him to pay respect to the Pope, Gregory XVI.  After their meeting with the Patriarch Petro, having completed the difficult mission of the request for the new bishop, the delegates were severely forbidden to go to Rome by the same Patriarch under pain of excommunication. Nevertheless they got the courage to visit Rome in 1842 to observe the truth of the living faith of the Catholic Church. Ghebre-Mikael discovered that the faith of the Catholic Church is in harmonious continuity with the ancient Ethiopian Church.

On returning to Adwa, in February 1844, he asked Mgr Justin de Jacobis to receive him into the Catholic Church. At the age of 59 Ghebre Mikael was secretly ordained a priest on January 1st, 1851 in the ruins of Alitena’s church.

He was appointed as teacher of the students of Mgr Justin de Jacobis. While he was acting as a rector of the small seminary, Abuna Selama the new bishop started persecuting Justin de Jacobis, Ghebre-Mikael and all those who followed them.

Abba Ghebre-Mikael was so viciously beaten that blood gushed out of his mouth soaking his whole body. Those who saw it quickly spread the rumor that he was dead. After surviving the beating his feet and hands were chained tightly. In July 25th, 1854 after he had being interviewed by Abuna Selama his legs was placed inside the “ghend”.

After he endured imprisonment and terrible torture, being sentenced to death, he faced the firing squad and his life ended in chains on the feast of St George, the martyr, on August 29th, 1855. He remained faithful to the Catholic Church despite all the tortures.

Mgr Justin de Jacobis informed his Superior General of Abba Ghebre Mikael’s death calling him both a “postulant” and a “seminarian” of the Congregation of Mission.