The Most Reverend Nathaniel, Archbishop of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate, presides over the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America, an ethnic diocese of the Orthodox Church in America. He is also the founder and president of the St. Andrew House Center for Orthodox Christian Studies.
Abp. Nathaniel was born William George Popp on June 12, 1940, in Aurora, Illinois, to a family of Romanian heritage. William was the third of five children in the family of Joseph Popp and Vera nee Boytor who were immigrants from the County of Satu Mare. In 1958, after completing primary and secondary schooling, William entered St. Procopius College in Lisle, Illinois that was a “Pontifical Eastern Rite Center” run by Benedictine monks where he studied the history, origins, and purposes of the Greek Catholic Church. Upon graduation in 1962, William was called to Rome, Italy by the Romanian Greek Catholic bishop, Vasile Cristea, to study at the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Athanasium Greek College, studying the rites, canons, and the spiritual life of the Byzantine Rite.
During these college years, William witnessed the activities of the second Vatican council and traveled through Germany and Greece including Mount Athos. It was at Mount Athos that William first visited an Orthodox Church and expressed the thought, ‘’If only the monks were not Orthodox.” Although deeply moved spiritually, his internal conflict with the history and loyalty to the “Unia” caused him to keep Orthodoxy at a distance. It was at Mount Athos that one of the spiritual fathers “bestowed” on him the name “Nathaniel.”
Upon completing his studies in 1966, William was ordained to the diaconate on July 17 and to the priesthood in the Romanian Uniate Church on October 23. Returning to the United States in January 1967, he was appointed as the assistant priest in the parish of St. Michael, in Aurora, Illinois. As Fr. Popp entered into parish life, the spirituality and theology of his Orthodox experiences began to rise in importance for him. Within months he sought entrance into the Orthodox Church. Having no practical experience in American Orthodox situation, he visited former classmates from Rome who had also embraced Orthodoxy. Through the parish priest of St. Mary parish in Cleveland, Ohio, Fr. Popp was introduced to Archbishop Valerian (Trifa) of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America,
Under the guidance of Archbishop Valerian, Fr. Popp was examined by the Episcopate Council and received into the Orthodox faith at St. Mary Chapel at ‘’Vatra’’ on February 15, 1968. After residing in a monastic community for several years, Fr. Popp became the priest of Holy Cross Parish in Hermitage, Pennsylvania in 1975. On September 20, 1980, a Special Electoral Congress of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America called Fr. Nathaniel to the episcopate as an auxiliary bishop to Abp. Valerian.
On November 15, 1980, Fr. Nathaniel was consecrated Bishop of Dearborn Heights, as an auxiliary bishop to Abp. Valerian. He served as auxiliary bishop until 1984, when Abp. Valerian retired. On November 17, 1984, Bishop Nathaniel became the ruling hierarch of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America. On October 20, 1999, the Holy Synod of the OCA elevated him to the rank of archbishop.
Archbishop Nathaniel traveled to Romania in May 2003, where he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Oradea.
|Bishop of Dearborn Heights|
|Archbishop of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate|