Today in Catholic History – The Armenian Genocide

On 24 April 1915, 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders were arrested in Constantinople/Istanbul marking the beginning of the Armenian genocide that would eventually take the lives of one and a half million people. Another one half million would flee Turkey.

The Young Turk government that replaced the Ottoman Empire at the end of WWI sought to eliminate any non-Turkish elements of the population. The large Armenian population – which at that time numbered around two million was a major obstacle to the goals of the new government.

While the brunt of the genocide fell upon the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Armenian Catholics would see 19 eparchies, 156 churches and chapels, 110 missions, 148 schools, 32 monasteries and convents and six seminaries destroyed. 7 bishops, 130 priests and 47 nuns and as many as 100,000 Armenian Catholics died, including Blessed Ignatius Maloyan. Most Armenian Catholics would flee Turkey for Lebanon and Syria. The Armenian Catholic Patriarchate would be transferred to Bzoummar, Lebanon.

The Martyrdom of Blessed Bishop Ignatius Maloyan:

On June 3, 1915, Turkish soldiers dragged Bishop Maloyan in chains to court with twenty seven other Armenian Catholic personalities. The next day, twenty five priests and eight hundred and sixty two believers were held in chains. During trial, the chief of the police, Mamdooh Bek, asked the Bishop to convert to Islam. The bishop answered that he would never betray Christ and His Church. The good shepherd told him that he was ready to suffer all kinds of ill-treatments and even death and in this will be his happiness.

Mamdooh Bek hit him on the head with the rear of his pistol and ordered to put him in jail. The soldiers chained his feet and hands, threw him on the ground and hit him mercilessly. With each blow, the Bishop was heard saying “Oh Lord, have mercy on me, oh Lord, give me strength”, and asked the priests present for absolution. With that, the soldiers went back to hitting him and they extracted his toe nails.

On June 9, his mother visited him and cried for his state. But the valiant Bishop encouraged her. On the next day, the soldiers gathered four hundred and forty seven Armenians. The soldiers along with the convoys took the desert route.

The bishop encouraged his parishioners to remain firm in their faith. Then all knelt with him. He prayed to God that they accept martyrdom with patience and courage. The priests granted the believers absolution. The Bishop took out a piece of bread, blessed it, recited the words of the Eucharist and gave it to his priests to distribute among the people.

One of the soldiers, an eye witness, recounted this scene: “That hour, I saw a cloud covering the prisoners and from all emitted a perfumed scent. There was a look of joy and serenity on their faces”. As they were all going to die out of love for Jesus. After a two-hour walk, hungry, naked and chained, the soldiers attacked the prisoners and killed them before the Bishop’s eyes. After the massacre of the two convoys came the turn of Bishop Maloyan.

Mamdooh Bek then asked Maloyan again to convert to Islam. The soldier of Christ answered: “I’ve told you I shall live and die for the sake of my faith and religion. I take pride in the Cross of my God and Lord”. Mamdooh got very angry, he drew his pistol and shot Maloyan. Before he breathed his last breath he cried out loud: “My God, have mercy on me; into your hands I commend my spirit”.

Photo of the Memorial to the Armenian Genocide at the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate by Serouj
Armenian Genocide Museum
Armenian Catholic Church

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