Rome, Italy, Apr 25, 2007 / 09:18 am
On Tuesday the Franciscans charged with the care of the Holy Land celebrated the “Day of Memory of the Armenian People,” recalling the legacy of the missionary martyrs who worked in Armenian territory occupied by the Turks.
“From 1894 to 1923, an unheard-of tragedy befell the Armenian people without distinction for sex or age, almost completely annihilating this Christian people that was the first to accept Christianity in the year 301 as the religion of the nation,” the Franciscan Custodians of the Holy Land said in a statement released on the internet.
The statement also took note of the “indiscriminate massacre of Christians” in which “a large number of missionary Franciscans of the Holy Land lost their lives, and the Latin rite faithful of Armenia were also immolated.”
Among those remembered during the commemoration were “Blessed Salvatore Lilli and seven companion martyrs, killed by the Turks for their faith; Brother Vittore Urrutia, starved to death for helping to save other parishioners from the massacre; Brother Pasquale Boladian, starved to death; Father Patrizio Werkley, who was killed while taking care of typhus victims,” as well as many others.
“May the memory and sacrifice of this people obtain from God peace in the world and fraternal understanding between all believers,” the statement emphasized in conclusion.
On April 24, 1915, Turkey arrested and executed hundreds of Armenian leaders, initiating what many call the holocaust of at least a million and a half of the two million Armenians who lived under the Turkish Empire.
The Armenian people lived as second-class citizens in the Ottoman Empire. Between 1884 and 1197, an estimated 300,000 were massacred. Between 1915 and 1917, many were deported and possibly up to a million and a half were executed.