Tag Archives: Eastern Christianity

Christianity without persecution? Armenian people were persecuted

Pope and Gregory XXThis morning in Rome the Holy Father offered Holy Mass with the recently-elected Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians, His Beatitude Gregory Peter XX Ghabroyan, as well as with the Bishops of Synod of the Apostolic Armenian Catholic Church and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri (Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches).

The new Patriarch has taken up the spiritual leadership in a time of Christian persecution and I am sure he’s not going to refrain from speaking out against the injustices and spilling of Christian blood. We need his voice, and that of all the Christian leaders to raise our awareness of these crimes.

In recent months more and more attention has been given by the Pope to the tragic events of the early 20th century that killed many of the Armenians and denied by members of the Turkish government. “Perhaps more than in the early days,” said Pope Francis, [Christians] are persecuted, killed, driven out, despoiled, only because they are Christians”:

“Dear brothers and sisters, there is no Christianity without persecution. Remember the last of the Beatitudes: when they bring you into the synagogues, and persecute you, revile you, this is the fate of a Christian. Today too, this happens before the whole world, with the complicit silence of many powerful leaders who could stop it. We are facing this Christian fate: go on the same path of Jesus. One of many great persecutions: that of the Armenian people”:

“The first nation to convert to Christianity: the first. They were persecuted just for being Christians,” he said. “The Armenian people were persecuted, chased away from their homeland, helpless, in the desert.” This story – he observed – began with Jesus: what people did, “to Jesus, has during the course of history been done to His body, which is the Church.”

Armenian Genocide memorial“Today, I would like, on this day of our first Eucharist, as brother Bishops, dear brother Bishops and Patriarch and all of you Armenian faithful and priests, to embrace you and remember this persecution that you have suffered, and to remember your holy ones, your many saints who died of hunger, in the cold, under torture, [cast] into the wilderness only for being Christians.”

The persecution of Christians happens in a profound way today. “We now, in the newspapers, hear the horror of what some terrorist groups do, who slit the throats of people just because [their victims] are Christians. We think of the Egyptian martyrs, recently, on the Libyan coast, who were slaughtered while pronouncing the name of Jesus.”

The Pope’s prayer was that the Lord might, “give us a full understanding, to know the Mystery of God who is in Christ,” and who, “carries the Cross, the Cross of persecution, the Cross of hatred, the Cross of that, which comes from the anger,” of persecutors – an anger that is stirred up by “the Father of Evil”:

“May the Lord, today, make us feel within the body of the Church, the love for our martyrs and also our vocation to martyrdom. We do not know what will happen here: we do not know. Only Let the Lord give us the grace, should this persecution happen here one day, of the courage and the witness that all Christian martyrs have shown, and especially the Christians of the Armenian people.”

Gregory of Narek’s brief narrative

NarekYou may recall that Pope Francis, in February 2015, declared as a Doctor of the Church the sainted Armenian monk and poet, Gregory of Narek (950-c. 1005). He is only one of 36 by the Roman Church.

Many wondered about the person of Gregory and his importance in the Church today. Being declared a Doctor of the Church is one of the most singular distinctions that the Supreme Pontiff could give to one of the saints, but way this monk and poet of the Armenian Church, and why now? Why is this gesture of Pope Francis a key event?

In Michael LaCivita’s article, “Cries from the Heart: Armenia’s Poet of the Soul” gives a fine introduction to this Doctor of the Church.

Saint Sharbel Makhlouf

Today is the feast of Saint Sharbel Makhlouf, the great Lebanese Saint (1828-1898). He is the first Lebanese Ssaint to be canonized formally by the Church of Rome. Most of Sharable’s life was marked chaos in the world, in particular with the Ottoman empire. The war destroyed 40 Lebanese villages and killed over 22,000 Maronites in Lebanon and Cyprus.

The monastic life of Sharbel was that of being a hermit: a life of penance, prayer and supplication before the Lord. His reputation spoke of him as a Miracle Worker of the East. He is an apostle of peace.

A New Doctor of the Church: Saint Gregory of Narek

stgregoryThe Catholic Church has a new Doctor –an Armenian saint —Saint Gregory of Narek.

“St. Gregory of Narek is widely revered as one of the greatest figures of medieval Armenian religious thought and literature. Born in the city of Narek in about 950 A.D., St. Gregory came from a line of scholars and churchmen.”

Saint Gregory of Narek’s feast day in the Armenian Church is October 13.

On the occasion of the 1700th anniversary of the Baptism of the Armenian people (2001) Saint John Paul said of Saint Gregory: “Among these illustrious figures, I would like to recall here Gregory of Narek, who probed the dark depths of human desperation and glimpsed the blazing light of grace that shines even there for believers.”

You will note that Saint Gregory, a monk in the Armenian Church, lived at a time when his Church was not formally in communion with Rome and Constantinople. Christian history can be complex to understand.

The Vatican Radio report is here.

The title of “Doctor of the Church” is bestowed on a saint because of his or her contribution to theology or doctrine. There are now 36 Doctors of the Church recognized by the Catholic Church, 4 of whom are women. The Eastern Churches may have a different list for their “Doctors of the Church.”

 

Rainbow coalition

Rainbow coalitionThis is a rather unfortunate photograph of some Russian Orthodox bishops. While I am confident that they have no idea of the cultural critique, it is funny as hell.

The first thing I thought of was “Here is  ecclesiastical candy.”

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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