Metropolitan Dr. Mar Mikhael of Edessa, O.S. J.
Primate (Chief Hierarch) of the Province
of the Americas and the Far East
When the Archimandrite Mikhael was released from the Chinese communist concentration camps in 1973, he was sent to New Zealand for six weeks of rest and recuperation. He then was immediately reassigned to the United States. During the meeting of the Synod of Bishops on the 26th –30th June 1974, he was elected and consecrated as the Coadjutor Metropolitan with the Right of Succession. During this Synod, he refused election twice, on the third nomination, the metropolitan and the bishops informed him that they were going to invoke his vow of canonical obedience “in the name of the Holy Spirit, to obey the Synod of Bishops and accept election.” On the 30th of June 1974, the feast of the Twelve Holy Apostles, he was duly consecrated. On the 29th December 1974, he assumed the Metropolitan See and a debt of over US $750,000. He paid the debt off in less than three years. Since that time, the Province has never been in debt again.
During his 30 years as the Chief Hierarch, he has observed the Province grow over 700% every decade. The last census revealed 2.7 million Christians within the province, which encompasses: North, Central, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Korean Japan, and Germany.
The first Metropolitan, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Dr. Mar David of Edessa, O.H.S. (nee: His Serene Highness, Prince Stanislaus, Count of Czernowitz (Seine Durchlaucht, Prinz Stanislaus, Graf von Czernowitz)) of blessed memory brought the church to these United States in 1934 from Europe. He further began the process of not limiting church membership to its ethnic origins. He began to meet the spiritual needs of the Coptic, Syrian, and Chaldean peoples who lacked their own priests and bishops, then to the American peoples who were seeking a deeper relationship with God through Liturgy in their own English language. In 1951, the Holy Liturgy was begun to be celebrated in English-no longer in Aramaic, the language in Jesus (Aramaic was reserved for Holy Week only). As the fourth Metropolitan, Metropolitan Dr. Mar Mikhael has continued and expanded upon this belief and practise. He believes by leading by example. He has expanded the jurisdiction personally—personally training missionaries, personally establishing medical stations, personally raising funds, etc. into the rural areas of Canada, Korea, into the jungles of Brazil, from the German communities into the poorest sections of Argentina, Peru, Columbia, to Central America, now into Australia and finally into Germany. He brought German registered nurses who are cloistered nuns (O.S.J.) to care for the discarded newborn A.I.D.S. infants and toddlers until they fall asleep in the Lord and enter Heaven. Now there are two such homes for these special infants, which accept no funds from any governmental source.
He teaches the traditional Christian faith, morality, and values. He celebrates both the traditional and the Charismatic Holy Liturgies with ease in the language of the people with whom he is with—from the depth of his great love for the Holy Liturgy.
He entered the Charismatic Renewal in 1972. He has taught, preached, conducted seminars, conducted healing services and celebrated the Charismatic Healing Liturgies with the anointing with Holy Oils throughout these United States, Canada, Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, India, Korea, England, Scotland, Ireland, Argentina, Peru, Brazil, and Mexico. He still does so today. In spite of what appears to be his physical limitations, when the Anointing of the Holy Spirit falls upon him and the congregation, he appears to glide along the floor, anointing the sick, the suffering, and the dying. When he goes to the Orthodox peoples with the Miraculous Icons (rescued by the Russian grandmothers when Stalin was destroying many of the Russian churches and cathedrals), even the stanch Orthodox peoples have received their healings because of their faith. (The miraculous Icons were rescued in Russia by the Metropolitan’s cousin, the Baron Roman von Schafnitzel who now lives in Hawaii. The baron spared none of his time nor his German training and talents to properly restore and preserve these icons to their near original condition.) Once the icons were re-consecrated, anointed with the Holy Chrism and solemnly placed in the cathedral, their miraculous powers soon became evident to all present. They have now travelled throughout South America: restoring sight to the blind, healing severe diabetes—brittle insulin dependent diabetics, leprosy, the lame walking, CP patients cured, etc. —all documented by the patients’ physicians.
Although the Metropolitan is known for his keen sense of humour, always speaking the truth even when doing so embarrasses himself, he has chosen not to be “politically correct,” to never compromise the Holy Scriptures, the Sacred (Oral and Written) Traditions of the Church, nor the Canons of the Church, nor the Canons of this Patriarchal Church.
As a Father Confessor, he has always been harder on himself but tender hearted upon a repentant sinner. He seeks to publicise the local clergy and not himself. He rarely grants interviews, nor engages in secular or ecclesiastical politics. Why? The former is boring and the latter does not give Glory to the Lord! However, he warns other hierarchs (bishops) of other historical sacramental jurisdictions (churches) when they first meet: “if you desire to play church politics, please let us know, coming out the gate. We have only one bad habit in life in terms of church politics—we shall win! We prefer to be brothers in Christ. The choice is yours. You must choose. Just let us know!”
What formed this unique hierarch who does not utilise a chauffeur nor lives in an episcopal mansion but who suddenly appears where you least expect him?
Born His Serene Highness, Prince Heinrich XXVI Reuß (Seine Durchlaucht, Prinz Heinrich XXVI Reuß) on the 3rd of February 1942 in what became East Germany, the son of His Serene Highness, Prince (Fürst) Heinrich XXV Reuß (an Orthodox priest) and Her Royal Highness, Princess Maria Obrenovic-Brankovic of Serbia, the family escaped from Nazi Germany into Switzerland. His father’s aunt (and his great aunt) was Her Majesty, the Kaiserin Hermine (Reuß) the second wife of Kaiser Wilhelm II in exile. His baptismal godmother was Her Imperial Highness, the Princess Royal Viktoria Louise (the only daughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II). He was educated in West Germany, Canada, the United States, and England.
As a member of the Order of St. John (Knights of Malta), the oldest medical and nursing Order in the Church (both east and west) founded during the Crusades, he was ordained a priest in 1968. He established medical and surgical stations and hospices in Southeast Asia India, and South America. When he was released from the Chinese communist prison camps, he was reassigned to the United States.
In his private office, nowhere are to be found his two earned doctorates (medicine and laws) nor any of his 47-honourary doctorates. Over his desk are hung: the full family achievement of arms with its motto: “Ich bau auf Gott (I build upon/trust in Gott)”, a picture of his priestly ordination day with his parents, his consecration document as the metropolitan, and the very first letter of congratulations upon his consecrations as the metropolitan: from the then Governor of the State of California and later President of the United States, Ronald Reagan (the beginning of numerous letters between the two). A single plaque sits upon his writing desk: “To love as Christ loves requires a daily decision.”
In spite of his ever- increasing physical disabilities over the years (which according to his physicians are the results of the communist imprisonment, the daily physical beatings and torture in 1972-1973 for the crime of being a priest, he maintains a schedule a normal priestly schedule as well as fulfilling the metropolitan’s diplomatic and hierarchal schedule. He mixes with ease among presidents and prime ministers, monarchs and nobles, ambassadors and general consuls, hierarchs and cardinals, clergy of all denominations, beggars and lepers, politicians and parishioners, etc. In spite of his two canes and knee braces, he still travels up the Andes Mountains, up the Korean Mountains to the Abbey, into Peru. Chile, Mexico, throughout the United States, Germany, Austria, Canada, --on the go for over 6 months every year and traveling well over 300,000 miles.
Unlike most other hierarchs and bishops, for over 28 years, he has traveled without any priestly staff in attendance. He believes that priests should be saving souls, not chauffeuring him about in an automobile. He has always appeared where he is least expected: relieving sick priests, priests who need a vacation, unexpectedly as a wedding anniversary relief for his married priests, etc.
Anyone and everyone can dial the chancellery telephone number and can speak with him directly—without having to go through five priests to reach him.
He has outlived two Coadjutor Metropolitans and often drives his fellow bishops crazy—as the vicar-bishop of Argentina once stated, “He can still out work and out minister all of us. That is why we all pray daily and earnestly: God GRANT him many, many, many- - - more years!!!”
The Metropolitan has been listed, under his family name in Marquis Who’s Who in America, Religion, and in Medicine and Healthcare.
The Eastern Catholic Archdiocese has been listed in Encyclopaedia of American Religions 7th Edition and updated into the 8th edition which shall also be on-line.