Thursday, December 02, 2004

Archimandrite Michael (Graves) Found Dead

(Vertograd, Haiti) On Thursday, November 26, 2004, Archimandrite Michael (Graves), administrator for the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church's Haitian mission, was found dead in the bathroom of Maison Orthodoxe, the mission's administrative center. The official report states that the cause of death was cardiovascular failure. The circumstances surrounding his death are unclear; he was found alone by two young boys some time after his actual repose. There were no reports of Father Michael having health problems before.

Fr. Michael singlehandedly started the mission to Haiti two decades ago, and he along with his attached parishes joined the Russian Autonomous Church in June of this year. An active speaker in defense of the Metropolitan during this period, he gained the respect and admiration of almost everyone he dealt with, except his most bitter enemies.

In his most recent semi-weekly newsletters, Fr Michael's tone became peculiarly ominous, including in his second-to-last edition a prediction of his own incarceration or death due to the political circumstances in Haiti. Fr. Michael had a number of enemies both inside and outside the Church. Yet his views were consistent with the Gospel; he refused to recognize any nearby government as Christian in nature and was more concerned with consistency with the Gospel above all else. Without a full investigation in Haiti, it is currently impossible to determine whether Fr. Michael simply died of stress-related heart failure or whether this was a skillfully executed murder on the part of local warlords, who had imprisoned and killed Roman Catholic priests in recent weeks for political views similar to Fr. Michael's.

The Hierarchical Synod of the ROAC issued the following Statement on the death of Archimandrite Michael: “The news of the repose of Father Archimandrite Michael has shaken the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church. We extend our sincerest sympathies to all of Father Michael's relatives and to all who were close to him. We pray that the Lord grant rest to his soul and admit it to where the righteous repose. The President and Hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church"

Archimandrite Michael will be buried with his parents in his native New Jersey, United States.