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FRANCISCAN MARTYRS DURING THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE

Date: 26.4.2005
Source: Custody of the Holy Land

Every year on 24 April the Armenians commemorate the genocide which the Turks perpetrated on the Armenian population in 1915. In Jerusalem the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate wanted to commemorate the event through a series of conferences which were held in the great hall of the Armenian seminary. On 11 April one of the conferences was held by the Franciscan Fr. Paul Sylvestre, vicar of the friary of Saint Saviour in Jerusalem, who spoke not only about the 1915 Armenian genocide, but also about the persecutions which the Armenians suffered at the hands of the Turks in the years 1896, 1909 and 1920. Fr. Paul based his information on records kept in the chronicles of the archives of the Holy Land Custody. These chronicles speak about the massacre of the Franciscan friars and the local Armenian Christians who were under their pastoral and material care by the Turks in the region of Cilicia, which is nowadays part of modern Turkey but which, during the 12-14 centuries had formed a small Armenian kingdom.

During the persecution of 1896 the Turkish soldiers killed the Franciscan missionary Father Salvatore Lilli, together with seven Christian faithful, because these had not accepted to be converted to Islam. Father Lilli and these Christians were beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1982.

The persecution of 1920 saw another three Franciscans and the local Christians being massacred by the Turks in a village. Another Franciscan was killed together with the local Christians of another village. In a third village an Armenian Franciscan was burned alive together with the faithful in the church and convent in which they had sought refuge. The Armenian persecutions marked the end of the apostolate of the Francsican Friars among the Armenians of Cilicia.

On Monday 25 April the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem commemorated the event of the genocide by the celebration of the Divine Liturgy according to the Armenian rite in the Cathedral of Saint James in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem. The Custody of the Holy Land was represented by Fr. Athanasius Macora and Fr. Noel Muscat. At the end of the liturgy a procession left the Cathedral to the Armenian cemetry, outside Zion Gate, where a special commemorative service was conducted by the Armenian Patriarch.

I Francescani di Terra Santa e l’Armenia. Immagini e testimonianze.


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Created/Updated Tuesday, 26 April, 2005 at 7:46:35 am by J.Abela, E.Alliata, E.Bermejo, Marina Mordin
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