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Blessed Ghebre Michael

For Ghebre Michael, a martyr in search of the truth, mere knowledge of theology was insufficient. He wanted to know the truth according to Sacred Scripture, as expressed by the Fathers of the Church, formulated in the first Councils and to which the Church professed unwavering fidelity.

c. 1788-1791Birth
1813Monk and doctorate in Ecclesiastical Sciences
1814 to 1825Pilgrimage for research and deepening his knowledge
1842, FebruaryVisit to Rome
1844Reception in the Catholic Church
1851, 1 JanuarySecret priestly ordination
1854, JulyImprisonment followed by terrible torture
1855, 28 AugustMartyrdom
1926, 3 OctoberBeatification as a martyr by Pius XI
30 AugustLiturgical feast

Ghebre Michael, whose name literally means “servant of Saint Michael,” was born between 1788-1971 to an Orthodox family, in Ethiopia, Gjam province, near the Mertola Maryam Monastery. He received his secondary education in the monastic school of this community and became a novice there.

For six years, he faithfully carried out the duties of a monk and carefully studied the entire Bible, the first Councils, the Fathers of the Church and all the other documents he could find. In 1813 he was a “Doctor of Ecclesiastical Sciences.” However, his thirst for knowledge was insatiable, so he began a pilgrimage for knowledge to the most prestigious monasteries of Ethiopia and Eritrea from 1814 to 1825.

Dejazmach Wube, Prince of Tigray, appointed him as a member of the commission sent to Cairo (because of jurisdictional ties) to request a new bishop for Ethiopia. For security reasons, this commission was accompanied by a Catholic priest, Justin de Jacobis. He made it a condition of his acceptance of the mission to take the delegates with him to Rome to pay their respects to Pope Gregory XVI. They successful completed the difficult mission of petitioning for the new bishop. Patriarch Petros forbade the members of the delegation to go to Rome on pain of excommunication. Nevertheless, they had the courage to visit Rome in 1842 and observe the truth of the living faith of the Catholic Church. Ghebre Michael discovered that the faith of the Catholic Church was in harmonious continuity with the ancient Ethiopian Church.

Upon returning to Adwa in February 1844, Ghebre Michael asked Monsignor Justin de Jacobis to receive him into the Catholic Church. At the age of fifty-nine, Ghebre Michael was secretly ordained a priest on 1 January 1851, in the ruins of the church of Alitena.

He was appointed professor for Justin de Jacobis’ students. As rector of the minor seminary, Abuna Salama, the new bishop, began to persecute Justin de Jacobis, Ghebre Michael and all those who followed them.

Abba (Father) Ghebre Michael was so brutally beaten that blood came out of his mouth, soaking his whole body. Those who saw him soon spread the rumor that he had died. Having survived the beating, he was chained hand and foot. On 25 July 1854, after being interrogated by Abuna Salama, his legs were bound with a shackle.

After enduring imprisonment and terrible torture, he was sentenced to death by firing squad. His life ended in a forced march on 28 August 1855, the feast of St. George. Despite all the tortures, he remained faithful to the Catholic Church.

Monsignor Justin de Jacobis informed his Superior General of the death of Abba Ghebre Michael calling him a “postulant” and “seminarian” of the Congregation of the Mission.