"...for the union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it."

-Pope Pius XI, Encyclical "Mortalium Animos"

Monday, April 1, 2013

Society of St John Chrysostom: Patriarch Sidrak enthroned as the new Coptic Catholic Patriarch

Society of St John Chrysostom: Patriarch Sidrak enthroned as the new Coptic Catholic Patriarch

The news service of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalemreports (15th March 2013): 

“We are proud of these Churches that produce young pastors, our very ‘own’ and close to us,” and, “This new generation of spiritual leaders is our true Arab Spring of the Church in the Middle East.”

Reactions of this kind were readily heard from among the faithful who filled the Church of the Virgin Mary, the Catholic Coptic Cathedral in Cairo on Tuesday, March 12, 2013, for the inauguration of the new Coptic Catholic Patriarch, His Beatitude, Anba Isaac Ibrahim Sidrak.

The faithful certainly alluded to the youth of Patriarch Ibrahim, and also to the new and young Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, Anba Tawadros. We can also think of the Chaldean Patriarch, Louis Sako, the Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, the Orthodox Patriarch of Ethiopia, all new and all quite young.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Four Million Pilgrims Venerate Our Lady From Vladivostok to Fatima

(Czestochowa / Fatima) in Fatima, Portugal, the world's largest Pro-Life action hitherto extends from ocean to ocean. More than four million people took part in the pilgrimage for Life that stretched across the far end of the world in Vladivostock. Nine months ago, in June 2012 in Vladivostok, in the far east of Siberia, the pilgrimage began for the faithful reproduction of the miraculous image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the famous Black Madonna. On her way she stopped in many countries, among many nations and languages. The pilgrimage led from the Pacific Ocean through the whole of Siberia, Central Asia, Eastern, Central, Southern and Western Europe to Fatima on the Atlantic Ocean. The miraculous image almost touched the whole of Catholic and Orthodox Europe.

The Pilgrimage for Life was conceived precisely to nine months. Its how long a pregnancy lasts. The aborted children do not even live this short period of life, to be born and to see the light of the world. That was Eva Kowalewska, the director of Human Life International Poland and main coordinator of pilgrimage for life’s idea from the beginning. The Polish Catholic developed the idea of a pilgrimage with Russian lifers with Orthodox Church affiliations. "The aim of the pilgrimage is to make as many people sensitive to the protection of life and the defense of the family," said Kowalewska. The organizers, however, rely primarily on divine assistance. Information and education is only part of the pilgrimage, but there is another side in prayer for the unborn and for an end to the scandal of abortion.

The Pilgrimage for Life covered 65,000 Kilomters, 24 countries were visited and more than four million people accompanied the Blessed Mother for a piece in prayer. A variety Orthodox and Catholic communities, parishes, and religious organizations have supported the prayer of action for life.

On 28 September, 2012 the pilgrimage brought the holy image to the German-speaking world, first to South Tyrol. From the 29th of September to the 14th of October they crossed Austria, then Liechtenstein, from 15-24th October, Switzerland, and finally from the 24th of October to the 2nd of November, the Federal Republic of Germany.

Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Great Britain, Ireland, France, Spain and since the 2nd of March in Portugal, those are the countries visited. On the 9th of March they brought the picture of grace to the church of St. Mary of Nazareth on the Atlantic Ocean.

Link to original…

H/t: Eponymous Flower.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Prayer to St. Josaphat Kuntsevych

Prayer to St. Josaphat Kuntsevych

St. Josaphat Kuntsevych was a Ukrainian archbishop. He labored in Polotsk for the reunion of the separated brethren with the Catholic Church. His untiring zeal caused his premature death. On Nov. 13, 1623 he was killed by the enemies of the reunion.

O Saint Josaphat, wonderful Saint and heroic martyr for the union of our Church with the Vicar of Christ, the Pope of Rome. Thou are glorious on account of thy zeal in the propagation of the true Catholic faith among our people. Thou art wonderful because of thy heroic martyrdom for the unity of faith of our people with the Holy See of Rome, the true center of orthodox Catholicism.

Thou art admirable on account of thy sublime virtues with which thou has adorned thy soul. We admire thy ardent love for Jesus and Mary and thy allegiance to the Vicar of Christ. Thou art a sublime example of all virtues for the people of whom thou wert born. Since thou art so powerful with God as thy miracles prove, I ask thee to obtain for me from Jesus and Mary a strong attachment to the Catholic faith and my beautiful Eastern Rite which I shall never betray nor abandon. Obtain also the grace of indefatigable zeal that I may labor for the reunion of my separated Eastern Brethren.

O glorious martyr of our Catholic Church, remember the nation of which thou wert a son, look at our people and pray to God for future reunion of all Ukrainians under one fold and one shepherd. May the day come soon in which all thy Brethren will assemble before thy holy relics in a free and independent Ukraine to give thanks to God for the union of all Ukrainians with the Holy See. Amen.

(Excerpted from pages 126-127 of the Ukrainian Rite prayerbook, My Divine Friend by Rev. Michael Schudlo, CSSR. Published 1959 Imprimi Potest: Vladimir Malanchuk, CSSR. Vice-Provincial No. 596, May 25, 1958. Nihil Obstat: Basil Makuch, STD, PhD. Censor Episcopalis. Imprimatur: Constantine Archbishop Metropolitan Philadelphia, August 1, 1958 No. 767/52M.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Coptic Church by Rev. J. Murtagh, S.M.A.

Catholic Truth Society of Ireland, No. DD. 1044 (1964)
The Coptic Church

Before the Schism

The Christian origins of Egypt go back to Gospel times and are contemporary with those of the Holy Land, that is, they start with the Incarnation itself. When Herod sought the Divine Infant to destroy Him, the Holy Family fled to Egypt for safety. In modern Egypt there are two local traditions concerning this visit. Near Heliopolis, a large suburb of Cairo, is the village of Matarieh. In a garden in this village is a very ancient tree and Egyptians say that the Holy Family rested under it while on the way from Palestine to the present Old Cairo, then known as Babylon.


The second tradition is associated with Babylon or Old Cairo for there the Copts point out the actual house in which Jesus, Mary and Joseph passed their sojourn in Egypt.


Though the Holy Family passed some time in Egypt, the Church was not then founded, and it was not until some time after the dispersal of the Apostles throughout the world that the Church in Alexandria was established. [Egyptians were present on the day of Pentecost and at the debates with St. Stephen.] When St. Peter changed his See from Antioch to Rome in 44 A.D. he took with him St. Mark, the Evangelist. According to an oral tradition, in 48 A.D. the Chief of the Apostles sent St. Mark to Alexandria to convert its inhabitants and to found a bishopric there. The Evangelist's efforts were successful and he laboured among the Egyptians, Romans, Jews and others there until his martyrdom in the year 68 A.D.

The fact that Alexandria received the founder of its Christianity through St. Peter is of enormous importance in the history of the city, for thereby St. Peter is considered the indirect founder. That the Chief of the Apostles should have established the See of Alexandria, even indirectly, was sufficient to place it among the greatest Churches of the world, in fact, next to Rome itself in dignity. St. Peter had relations with three great Churches, Rome, Alexandria and Antioch, and so great was his dignity and so clear the perception of his Primacy among the other Apostles and disciples that these three Churches were ranked the three outstanding congregations in the Christian world until the rise of Constantinople. In the early days, if a Christian Church wished to insist upon its dignity, it pointed out that its founder was an Apostle. Add to Alexandria's indirect Petrine establishment the fact that it was the second largest city in the world after Rome and one easily understands Egypt's pre-eminence in the Christian East.

180 A. D.

For more than a century after the death of St. Mark, the history of the Church in Alexandria is shrouded in the deepest obscurity, and almost the only information historians have of this second of all Christian Churches is a list of Bishops in chronological order. All this makes uninteresting reading. However, when the light of history does make that Church known it is an almost fully developed community that appears. The Church of Christ has not conquered Her rivals, but She is a strong community living side by side with Egyptian gods, Greek gods and Judaism as modified by Philo. This manifestation took place about the year 180 A.D.


The first thing to be noticed about the Christian community of the late second century at Alexandria is that it possessed a Christian school which soon became the intellectual centre of the Christian world. At this time Rome and the West were intellectually inferior to the East. >From this school of Alexandria arose Saints and scholars of the highest spiritual and mental attainments whose outstanding characteristics were their attachment to the true faith and their struggle for orthodoxy. This does not mean that the Alexandrian Fathers did not err. When they did, they were either unaware of error or showed submissiveness when corrected.

That Alexandria was a centre where attachment to the Catholic Faith was strong is seen in the fight for Orthodoxy of the teachers and Bishops of the See of St. Mark throughout three centuries.

CLEMENT, Died 215 A.D., AND ORIGEN, Died 254. A.D.

Two of the early Heads of the Alexandrian School - Clement, and the greatest early Christian thinker, Origen, - were accused of heresy. While it is true that the works of both contain errors, it is also true that neither could abide heresy or heretics, that both opposed unceasingly the heresy of Gnosticism, and that later outstanding Alexandrian scholars considered Clement and Origen as their masters. The scope of a pamphlet is insufficient to vindicate either of them.


Another of the great Christian stalwarts of all time is an Alexandrian scholar and bishop of that city, St. Athanasius who spent the greater part of the fourth century and of his life in defending the Catholic doctrine of the Blessed Trinity against the Arians who wished to disfigure our teaching by asserting that the Son of God was a created Person.

>From some time before the Council of Nice (or Nicea) in 325 A.D. till his death in 373 A.D., the life of St. Athanasius of Alexandria was one of struggle in the interest of the orthodox faith.

ST. CYRIL, Died 444. A.D.

Again in the fifth century another heresy presented itself to the Christian world and again heresy found itself opposed by an Alexandrian bishop. This time the heresy was Nestorianism, and its opponent, St. Cyril of Alexandria. At the Council of Ephesus, which condemned the errors of Nestorius in 431 A.D., St. Cyril represented the Pope and presided, therefore, over the assembly. Cyril had been chosen by the Pope on account of his well-known zeal against Nestorianism which he had manifested by his teaching and his writings.

However, with the death of St. Cyril in year 444 A.D. a new page and a sad one opened in the history of Christian Egypt. Whereas Egypt had been the centre of Orthodoxy, a few years after the death of St. Cyril it cut itself off from the Universal Church, and has remained separated ever since, if two short periods of reunion be overlooked.


It is catholic doctrine that in Jesus Christ the God-Man, there are two natures, one divine, the other human. These two natures are each complete; nothing is wanting to make each of them a true nature. The divine nature in Christ is exactly the divine nature of the Father and his human nature is made up of a perfect body with a perfect soul, having all its faculties, intellectual memory, a perfect human intellect, and a perfect human will. The Church teaches that these two perfect and complete natures are united in the Person of the Son of God. Thus it is a doctrine of two natures in one Person.


Nestorianism had been an attempt to spread a different doctrine. According to the Nestorians the Catholic doctrine is correct to a certain point. They will agree that in Christ there are two perfect and complete natures, one human, the other divine. Yet they will disagree as to the manner of the union of these two natures. Whereas we claim it it is a personal or hypostatic union, that it takes place in the person of the Son of God, Nestorians will say that the union is only moral, that is, that the two natures are united by love. Certain conclusions follow this claim of the Nestorians; that in Christ there are two persons, human and divine, as well as two natures, human and and divine, that Mary was not t the Mother of the Divine Person, but of a human nature and a human person. Thus in the ages when this heresy was fought the word 'Theotokos' (She who bears God) was the password of orthodoxy. In those days of the fifth century if one said that one believed in the Theotokos, one was accepted into the orthodox camp of Pope St. Leo the Great and St. Cyril of Alexandria.


The heresy into which Egypt fell was a reaction against the error just described. The new party maintained that the union of natures in Christ was so close that the divine nature had absorbed the human nature. They used the comparison of putting a drop of wine into a vessel of water. As the wine is absorbed by the greater quantity of water so, they said, the finite human nature of Christ was absorbed by His infinite divine nature. That Christ is exclusively divine and has no human nature, and that Mary is the Mother of God are inevitable conclusions from this reasoning. With the first, that Christ is only divine and has no human nature, Catholics disagree 'in toto' because it is at variance with the Gospels where Christ is shown as being also human since he ate, drank, slept, suffered and rejoiced and performed the actions proper to humanity. As to the second, that Mary is the Mother of God, the Catholic Church is of the same opinion, but she disagrees with the reasoning on which the conclusion is based and with the implication which such a conclusion entails. The oneness of nature in Christ is the foundation of Mary's Divine Motherhood according to this opinion, and it would follow from such reasoning that the Blessed Virgin gave birth to the divine nature ; which is absurd. Because its adherents insisted on the oneness of nature in Christ, this theory is called Monophysitism. (Greek: Monos - one, Fusis - nature).


The successor of St. Cyril in the See of Alexandria was a certain Dioscorus, who was given over to the new heresy, (under the influence of his theologian, Eutyches.) He had influence with the East Roman Emperor of the time at Constantinople of whose Empire Egypt formed a part.

Dioscorus prevailed upon this Emperor, Theodosius II, to call a Council to be held at Ephesus in 449 A.D. at which by unscrupulous methods and violence the Bishop of Alexandria succeeded in having Monophysitism accepted as the true doctrine.


Among other irregularities, the three legates, sent by the Pope to represent him and to preside at the Council were set aside and treated as mere members of the Synod, having no right to assume leadership of the Council; the Imperial army was used to force the bishops to sign the decrees; the Patriarch of Constantinople subsequently died as a result of the ill-treatment received at the hands of the soldiers and Dioscorus himself. The papal legates, having escaped by flight, made known to, the Pope the manner in which the Synod had been held. The Robber Synod of Ephesus of 449 A.D. was thereupon condemned by Rome and its acts and decisions declared invalid. Theodosius II, being a partisan of Dioscorus, refused the Pope's demand for another Council to rectify the errors of the "Brigandage d'Ephese" ("Robber-Council of Ephesus").

However this Emperor died in the following, year 450 A.D.


His successor, Marcian, of strong Catholic leanings, called a Council at Chalcedon in the year 451 A.D. At this Council what had been done at Ephesus was undone. The papal legates presided and the doctrine, already explained, was declared to be the true teaching of the Church.


>From this date, 451 A.D. the Egyptians are considered to have separated themselves from the Universal Church, for, instead of submitting to the teaching of Chalcedon, they preferred to take a course of action which led to the establishment of a national Church at loggerheads with both Rome and Constantinople. Not all Christians in Egypt adhered to the new national Church, for it must be remembered that in the cities of Egypt and particularly in Alexandria there were large numbers of Greeks, as the country was being administered by a Byzantine Emperor and Alexandria was notably a Greek city both in foundation and culture. After 451 A.D. Egypt split into two groups, based upon religion and nationality.


The Greeks stood out for the teachings of Chalcedon and as these were favoured by the Emperor its adherents were branded with the name of "the King's men." When translated into a semitic tongue, this phrase becomes "Melkites" from the word "malik" meaning a king in most Semitic languages.


On the other hand the native Egyptians were called by the Greeks "aigyptoi" i.e. Egyptians. This later became corrupted into "gypti" and finally in non-literary Arabic "ipti". This last is the word by which a contemporary Egyptian Christian will refer to himself though, if he wishes to be more classical, he will go back to "gypti". This is the origin of the European word " Copt " to designate an Egyptian Christian.


If the study of the two terms by which the opposing parties designated each other, leads to any conclusion, it is this, that the struggle for religious independence in Egypt was basically nationalistic. Egypt did not feel itself strong enough, nor had it the inclination, to overthrow Byzantine overlordship, and in the past found little difficulty in accepting foreign political domination, provided that sufficient liberty and economic security were assured. While not aspiring to political independence, the national soul expressed itself in the acquisition of religious autonomy. Monophysitism was used as a support for nationalism and an excuse for separation.

The validity of this explanation of the break of Coptic Egypt with the Universal Church is supported by the opinions of modern writers who hold that the Monophysite statement of its position can be reconciled with the teaching of Chalcedon. Certainly, today Monophysitism means nothing to the Copts, most of whom seem never to have heard of it, and their chief reason for remaining apart from the Universal Church is entirely different from that on which the original break was based.

Today the main reason for staying separated is the claim of the Pope that he has a Primacy, not simply of honour but also of jurisdiction over all baptized Christians.


For the next few years Egypt was quiet outwardly. However, the death of the pro-Chalcedon Emperor Marcian in 457 A.D. was the signal for a rising of the Copts in the city of Alexandria itself under the leadership of a priest called Timothy the Cat. During the years between Chalcedon and Marcian's death Timothy the Cat had been the soul of the Copt resistance to the decrees of the Council and his methods of stealth in organizing resistance and assuring for himself the leadership of the future independent Egyptian Church earned for him the epithet " The Cat ".

The rising took place on Good Friday 457 A.D. The Egyptian mob marched through the streets of Alexandria, took the Cathedral by storm and murdered the Patriarch Proterius during the celebration of the Holy Week services. Proterius, of course, was a Catholic or Melkite as Catholics of the Greek rite were known in Alexandria after Chalcedon. At Chalcedon the Monophysite Patriarch, Dioscorus, who had been responsible for the infamous Synod at Ephesus in 449 A.D. was deposed from the Patriarchate and banished.


In 457 A.D. then, the schism was renewed with the murder of Proterius and the accession of Timothy as Patriarch. The independent Coptic Church lived side by side with the Melkite or Catholic Church of Greek rite which also had its patriarchs. Thus as a result of the schism a duplication of Patriarchs ensued.

After the separation

457-640 A.D.

Thus was achieved the break of Egypt with the Universal Church. With the break from the true Mystical Body of Christ came a withering of life, natural and divine. St. Cyril, the Catholic, was the last of the great learned Bishops and Saints of Alexandria. While it must be admitted that political circumstances seriously contributed to the intellectual and spiritual decadence of Christian Egypt, that strong attraction to intellectual culture and high spiritual development which all Catholic communities experience, even if they do not realize it, is absent from many periods of the history of Egypt. As Fortescue said, the trouble with all separated churches is one of arrested development. They all advanced to a certain point and then, when the breach with Rome came, they remained stationary. Union with Rome is obviously an essential condition for Christian progress. St. Cyril, whose death occurred seven years before Chalcedon is significant as being the culmination of development in Christian Egypt.


The two centuries which followed Chalcedon were not important except in so far as they prepared the way for the Persian occupation of Egypt, to be followed closely by the invasion of the Arabs. There were two centuries of strife, religious strife, which brought about national weakness. Before Chalcedon the country was divided from the point of view of racial feeling, but the Greeks and Egyptians could have united in the face of an invader. The religious idea of one or two natures having been thrown into the conflict, the two racial parties were irrevocably opposed. At the end of these two centuries the struggle took the form of a determined persecution of Copts at the hands of the Greeks. The occasion was the attempt to spread a new heresy, a compromise between Catholic teaching and Monophysitism.


No one realized more clearly than the Eastern Roman Emperor, Heraclius, the weakness resulting to the Empire from the spread of the teachings of Nestorius and Eutyches in Syria, Palestine and Egypt. He knew that unity among the different peoples of his great Empire could be obtained only by agreement in faith. This Heraclius determined to achieve, but unfortunately went about it in the wrong manner. The occasion for this attempt at religious union was the presence of the external danger of the pagan Persian army in the early part of the seventh century. The Patriarch of Constantinople presented the Emperor with a new heresy, thinking that all parties would accept this compromise, and that religious unity would ensue. Severus, the Patriarch, advised the Emperor to proclaim that in Christ there was only one will and that all discussion of a twofold operation should be set aside.


While retaining one person and two natures, Severus did not retain the doctrine of two wills and thus laid himself open to the charge of being illogical since a complete nature includes a will. However, the upshot was that no one was prepared to accept the compromise. The Copts pointed to the admission of only one will and said that Chalcedon had yielded to them and not they to Chalcedon.

This proposal of Monothelitism, (Monos - one, Thelos - will), as the new doctrine was called, was brought to the Egyptians by the arrival of a new Melkite Patriarch of Alexandria, specially chosen for his willingness to co-operate with the Emperor in his plan for unification through compromise. Cyrus was the new Patriarch's name. Cyrus arrived in Egypt in the year 631 A.D. about four years after the withdrawal from that country of the Persians, who had seized it from the Emperor Heraclius.


When Cyrus, who combined in his own person the twofold power of Patriarch and civil governor, found that the Copts were not prepared to compromise he resolved to resort to force and introduced a period of violent open persecution which lasted till the conquest of Alexandria by the Moslem Arabs in 641 A.D.

Heraclius had hoped that the plan he had imposed would succeed in presenting a united front to all invaders. In reality it had the directly opposite result in alienating the sympathies of the Egyptians.


The fall of Alexandria to the followers of the Prophet Mohammed opened a new era for Christian Egypt. The effects of the conquest of 641 A.D. are still obvious to the most uninquisitive. The country is still Moslem in religion, culture and government.

With the advent of Islam, a new religion was thrown into the already disturbed religious condition of Egypt. Whereas there were two warring Christian communities with a rather strong Jewish body, now the new religion of the recent conquerors of the country was added. This did not lead to the immediate suppression of the three other Communities, as the Moslems professed a doctrine of religious toleration. This doctrine was applied though with great imperfection at times. Yet such liberty of cult was allowed as to preserve the Christian Churches in existence.


Now one of the results of the Arabs investiture of Alexandria was the withdrawal of the Imperial armies and the majority of the non-Egyptian civilians resident in Alexandria and other Egyptian towns. The Melkite Church, was therefore, severely weakened. After 641 A.D. the Melkite Patriarch felt so insecure that he withdrew to Constantinople and for centuries the Melkite Patriarchate of Alexandria was governed from that distant city.


The Copts had to live side by side with the conquerors; after an initial period in which they were favoured more or less, they had to fight for their faith against terrific difficulties, and it is not surprising that, faced with periodic outbursts of anti-Christian violence, with a special poll tax as a penalty for his Christianity, large numbers of native Christians felt that life was intolerable and threw up the struggle by the acceptance of the religion of the conqueror. Large numbers of Copts apostatized from time to time. In fact, most of them did so for the present Christian minority is many times smaller than the Moslem Egyptian majority.


Thus two dwindling Christian Communities continued a difficult existence until a new event modified the situation some-what. It has been shown that of the two communities one was Monophysite the other Catholic. It is clear that the Melkites, had looked more towards Constantinople than Rome for guidance since they were Byzantine in rite. (I hesitate to use the word " Greek " with reference to Constantinople since the proper word to designate its inhabitants and the subjects of the Empire at this period is, strangely enough, "Romans." They were Romans because they came under the East Roman Empire, whose seat was Constantinople or Byzantium. In Arabic, today Greeks are referred to as "Rumi" i.e. "Romans." "Rumi" is a word with a long history.) Then again the Melkite Patriarch was in residence at Constantinople and certainly underwent the anti-Roman influence of that Patriarchate.

Thus when Constantinople fell into schism under Cerualarius in 1054, it is not surprising that the weaker Melkites took the lead of the stronger religious centre and followed her into schism. Thus from 1054 and for some time, there were no Catholics in Egypt. (except captured slaves, pilgrims, and traders.)

Links with Rome

The history of the Copts hereafter is simple enough. The visits of the Franciscans from Palestine during the Crusades and the establishment of Franciscan houses in Alexandria and Old Cairo in the thirteenth century were new occasions of contact with the Catholic Church. The visit of St. Francis, the arrival of the Crusaders at Damietta and Mansoura, where St. Louis King of France was taken prisoner and later ransomed, were all reminders to the Copts of the existence of the See of Peter, with which they had so little contact in those days of difficult travel. Whatever the reason, the Copts followed the other Eastern Churches in uniting again with and acknowledging the primacy of Rome at the Council of Florence, later changed to Ferrara during the years 1438-1445.


The union, however, was ephemeral and cannot have lasted more than a few years as happened in the case of most of the Churches signing the decree of union at Florence- Ferrara. The Copts never got to understand the meaning of union and were soon again estranged from Rome.


The Copts cannot have felt quite at ease in their estrangement from Rome, for again, we find them drawing closer to Christendom by a new Act of Union signed in Rome in 1597. The conditions of 1597 resemble the circumstances of 1439-45, and on the death of the pro-Union Patriarch, a few years after the union had been sighed, the separatist opposition party saw to it that the breach was renewed. The whole affair left so little impression on the Coptic Church that certain writers have presumed to deny that the union took place.

Copts in Modern Times

As elsewhere already mentioned, there is now in existence a Coptic Uniate or Catholic Church, united with Rome in faith and acknowledging the Primacy and Infallibility of the Pope, but following the customs and ritual of the Coptic Monophysite Church. The origin of this Catholic body is obscure. It seems certain that after the Council of Chalcedon in 451 no Egyptians remained Catholics while following the Coptic liturgy. Those who remained Catholics had to turn Melkite and the number who did so must have been infinitesimal. Yet in the nineteenth century, we find a small but organized body looking to Rome for guidance in faith.


When did it begin? Most probably not during the Crusades when the Franciscans established themselves in Egypt in a small way. Nor are the Copt Catholics the descendants of those who remained faithful after the schism was renewed subsequent to the Reunions of 1438-45 and 1597. The beginnings seem to go back no further than the seventeenth century and are the results of the efforts of the Franciscans and the Jesuits who had arrived to help in the christianisation of the country.


At the beginning of the nineteenth century the first important Copt Catholic appeared. His name was George Ghali. Under Mohammad Ali, the Great, the founder of the Egyptian dynasty which ruled until Nasser's time, he became the head of the Coptic book-keepers in the employment of the State. His position would correspond roughly with the present office of Under-Secretary to the Minister of Finance. In 1816 he followed this up with an attempt to effect a reunion between the Monophysite Copts and Rome. Ghali had the support of Mohammad Ali in his scheme for reunion for the latter, though unlettered, had liberal ideas and realized that to progress the Copts would have to get the impulse from Europe and Rome. He desired reunion for cultural reasons


The scheme made headway and the Monophysite Bishops assembled to sign the prepared Act of Reunion. At last a fanatical Bishop asked to be shown the Act for perusal and when he had it in his hands he tore it to shreds. This ended the attempt.


It is difficult to state with accuracy the exact number of Copt Monophysites. Regular censuses are taken by the Egyptian Government and in these the people are asked to state their religion. However, the proportion of Copts in the nation is not made public and this has encouraged them to give their exaggerated estimates of their numbers. The total population of Egypt in 1962 amounted to 28 millions. The traditional proportion of Copts to Moslems is one in twelve and on this basis there should be about two and a half million Copts. Estimates by Copts themselves seldom fall lower than four millions and even reach the impossible figure of six millions.


At the end of the 19th century the statistics of the Copt Catholics were given as being 12,000. The present [1964] numbers are about 100,000. These figures show progress and are in some measure due to the efforts of the Jesuits who have under their care more than 110 village schools for the education of Copts. Recently the Copt Catholic Hierarchy was reorganized by Pius XII. There is now a Patriarchal diocese at Alexandria, of which the occupant is normally resident in Cairo, with episcopal sees at Minia, Tahta and Assiut.

The Copt Catholic Community is on the whole exceedingly poor. The standard of livelihood of a priest who would carry out his ministry in an Egyptian village, is so low that only one reared there will subject himself to it. Most of their churches are exceedingly primitive. Yet it is through Copt Catholics that the return of the Copt Monophysites to the Catholic Church will take place.

Copt Catholics are therefore to be encouraged in their work since they are the point of contact with the mass of Egyptian Christians.

The Coptic Language

The Coptic Language is as dead as Latin and is used only for liturgical purposes. It is the direct descendant of the ancient Egyptian language known under its written form as hieroglyphics. This original script underwent a twofold change before transforming itself into Coptic. First it became hieratic in script, which means that a form of writing peculiar to the Egyptian pagan priesthood developed out of hieroglyphics. Hieratic is from Hiereus, the Greek for priest. This form of writing went through a further stage called the demotic script. Demotic was so called because it was the manner employed by the people, or 'Demos' in Greek. The last stage was Coptic.

Coptic is the Egyptian language, written in Greek characters. There are seven sounds in Egyptian which could not be represented by the Greek letters, so the deficiency of this adapted alphabet was supplied by seven characters taken from the demotic script.

There are many Greek words in Coptic. This is easily understood when one learns that the Mass and liturgical services in Egypt were originally, as in Rome for the first two centuries, in the Greek language. When the services were rendered into Coptic several Greek expressions were retained unchanged. This also happened in the West in the retention of the "Kyrie Eleison." Then when Egyptians wished to express something connected with Christian worship which had no counterpart in pagan Egyptian service, they had recourse to the Greek - which they knew - for the word. Thus the word in Coptic for bishop, confession, devil, apostle, disciple, soul, excommunicate, saviour, and many other words are borrowings from Greek.

The Coptic Language has a threefold use. It has liturgical and biblical utility, for much Coptic literature is religious. It is useful and even necessary for students of hieroglyphics who wish to arrive at the pronunciation of old Egyptian. It is a help in the study of magic, for many ancient Coptic documents treat of magic.


Recently two problems have arisen within the Coptic Monophysite Church. The first is entirely connected with the Egyptian part of the Patriarchate, an internal squabble. A recent Patriarch, dissatisfied with the customs by which the economic side of the monasteries is conducted, was anxious for financial reform. It seems that bishops and abbots are accustomed to consider funds accumulated during their period of headship as their personal property and in fact do bequeath large sums to their relatives at death. The Patriarch would like to take the control of finance out of the hands of bishops and abbots and place it under the control of a lay council. Naturally there has been a split, the Patriarch and laity being opposed by bishops and heads of monasteries. Incidentally, we should not imagine that Coptic monasteries are the eastern counterparts of efficient, clean, well-run western monasteries, though they ought to be respected as being the undoubted source, whence Europe drew her inspiration. Italian, French and Celtic monasticism are clearly the development of Egyptian monasticism of the fourth and fifth centuries, adapted to the peoples of the western world. Yet at present and for centuries past, Copt monasteries are and have been in a bad way. Learning and the desire thereof are in abeyance. Even manual work is not practised assiduously though there is fidelity to the recitation of the divine office.

The second problem is the desire of the Abyssinians (or Ethiopians, as they are now known) to establish an independent Church. This desire has grown through the efforts of Mussolini to establish an autonomous Abyssinian Church independent of Egypt after the Italian occupation of 1935. In the spring of 1944 a Coptic delegation of a bishop and laymen went to Addis Ababa concerning the matter. One result has been concessions on the part of the Copt Monophysite Patriarch to the Abyssinians of greater power in the nomination of bishops.


A sharp distinction must be made between Copt Catholic priests and Copt Monophysite priests. As priests in Egypt must for the most part work in surroundings of direst poverty and distress it is inevitable that most Egyptian priests are drawn from the lowest classes of Society. This is unfortunate for the Church, since, as a consequence, the priesthood has little influence socially. The situation is tragic among Monophysite Copts, where, added to their lowliness of birth, the clerics as a body are almost without education. In most cases they are unlettered laymen raised to the dignity of the priesthood at the call of a Bishop.

The position among the Catholic Copts is better. While often of lowly birth the Copt Catholic priest had received in the past an excellent secondary education imparted by the Jesuits who were appointed by Pope Leo XIII especially for this task. This was followed by a course of Philosophy and Theology at the Seminary in Tahta, a Catholic town in Upper Egypt. When His Holiness Pius XII reorganized the Copt Catholic Hierarchy in 1947, he also transferred both departments of education to Tanta, a large town in the Nile Delta. More recently a new Seminary was built at Maadi near Cairo.

Monophysite Coptic priests may marry but their Catholic counterparts observe celibacy. However a Coptic bishop must be unmarried. He is chosen from the monks and usually has been a superior in a monastery.


Coptic services are usually very lengthy affairs. Whereas in the Latin rite we have several Masses on a Sunday or Holiday (Holy Day) of Obligation, in the Monophysite Coptic rite there is only one which is always sung and which lasts about three and a half hours. It is not considered necessary for the faithful to remain for the whole Mass, but while the more fervent and leisured classes do so, many are content with assisting at a part of a Mass.

The language of the Mass and other liturgical services may be either Arabic, which the people speak, or Coptic which is to Egyptians what Latin is to European Catholics. However the words of Consecration must always be pronounced in Coptic. A Latin Catholic who assists at a Coptic Mass for the first time feels that he has not been to Mass, but a little experience will enable him to find out that the ancient rite of the Egyptians contains, as does the Latin rite, an Epistle, Gospel, Offertory, Sanctus, Consecration, Pater Noster, and Communion. The actions are somewhat different. The Host and Chalice are not elevated, the words of Consecration are recited aloud and not said silently as in the Latin Mass. No bell is rung. Catholic Copts have introduced Benediction and other Latin ceremonies, such as the Way of the Cross. This latinising impulse has come from the Copts themselves, and not always from the European missionaries working in Egypt. It has led many Monophysites to feel that union with Rome means loss or mutilation of rite; and the Copt Monophysite loves his rite. The strains of Veni Creator, Te Deum and Tantum Ergo set to Arabic words in a Coptic Church do sound rather absurd.


The Coptic Church is exceedingly conservative in teaching as in ritual. While it can be said that the Egyptian Church of 1964 is almost identical with that of 451 doctrinally, yet there has been a shifting of emphasis on distinctive Coptic teaching. The question on which Egypt broke with the Universal Church is no longer the burning issue it was, though one frequently does hear the question of one or two natures discussed by the educated laity, rarely by the clergy, for whom such abstract subjects are too difficult. The obstacle to union with the Universal Church is no longer Monophysitism, but the claim of Papal Supremacy.

The Coptic Church has a wholesome respect for the See of Rome provided its occupant restricts his claims. The Patriarchs of the Great Patriarchal Sees of Rome, Alexandria, Constantinople, Antioch and Jerusalem, say the Copts, are the rulers of the Church, but the respective Patriarchs are independent in their own Patriarchates; the Pope is master in the west and the Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria is independent ruler of the Egyptian Christians. The Pope may preside at Church Councils but as 'Primus inter pares'. The Copts are willing to unite with Rome but only on these conditions.

Obviously what the Copts are fighting for is not a doctrine, but spiritual independence.

Another important matter on which difference exists between Latins and Copts is the question of divorce, which the latter, in accordance with the custom among separated Oriental Churches, admit for a grave reason.

It is commonly said that the Coptic Church does not admit the existence of Purgatory. However, Mgr. Girard, a French Bishop who has spent more than fifty years as a missionary In Egypt, and has written an excellent work on the Eastern Churches, believes that the Copts do accept the Latin teaching on this matter but that they have disfigured it with fables taken, it would seem, from the religion of the ancient Egyptians. One of these fables is that for forty days after death, departed souls wander about before presenting themselves at the seat of God for judgement, that during this time they undergo different sorts of trials even at the hands of the devil. Some even go so far as to say that full bliss for the saved will not begin until the lapse of one year after death. However the Copts pray for the dead - inexplicable if they do not believe in Purgatory.

Rise of Christian Monasticism
Our Debt to the Egyptians of the Church

Alexandria was undoubtedly the leader in theological and philosophical matters in early Christian times. While this pre-eminence sheds glory on Egypt, Egyptians had really little to do with it. This glory was a borrowed glory. The rise of Alexandria to such an eminent position was due to the transference to that city of the Schools of Athens when decadence began to appear in Greece. The Greek philosophers became Christian, making Alexandria what it was.

However, Egypt had another glory which was all her own and in which the Greeks had little part. The monastic movement which was to influence the Church in all lands and which had its rise in Egypt, was the work of men who were Egyptian in birth and blood.

The great names in the foundation of the monastic life are those of St, Anthony, St. Paul and St. Pachomius who all died about the year 350 A.D. The movement is generally supposed to have begun about the year 260 A.D. when thousands of fervent Christians fled from the Egyptian cities to the desert under the persecution of Decius, the Roman Emperor. Many found unexpected sweetness in solitude and remained freely in the desert when the necessity had passed.

The earlier solitaries lived without a rule but soon the necessity for discipline became apparent and a planner appeared in the person of St. Pachomius who was the first to draw up a rule and establish monastic life on the lines that we know to-day.

The spread and influence of Egyptian monasticism was phenomenal. Within a couple of hundred years all Christendom had adopted the system. St. Hilarion brought it to Syria and Palestine. St. Basil the Great was responsible for its introduction into Pontus and Cappadocia, while Cassian is acknowledged as the founder of monasticism in the west. It was Cassian who founded the monastery of Lerins in 410 A.D. There St. Patrick learned the system and brought it with him to Ireland.

All these offshoots bore clearly the marks of their origin. Like Egyptian monasticism, the Palestinian, Syrian, Greek, Gallic and Celtic forms were all more or less individualistic in character, fiercely rigorous and making no concessions to climatic conditions. The result was that in Europe, though not in Ireland, monastic life seemed destined to decline, when a great figure appeared on the scene. This was St. Benedict, whose task was to adapt the monastic ideal to the European mind and climatic conditions. He toned down the primitive Egyptian rigorism and removed its individualism, thus rendering monasticism suitable for the Teutons who were then coming into the Church. St. Benedict's foundation of Monte Cassino in 529 A.D. (destroyed in 1943 but since restored) was of immense importance in the history of Europe, for to the monasteries which sprang from it the conversion of Europe is - under God - largely due. Celtic monasticism also figured prominently in this conversion but the modified form introduced by St. Benedict gradually superseded the unmitigated Irish system. The work of both these currents is clearly seen in the second conversion of England in the seventh century.

The Celtic influence came from the North, especially from the Holy Isles of Iona and Lindisfarne, the most important homes in Britain of Irish monasticism. The landing in England of St. Augustine in 596 with 36 monks marks the beginning of the Benedictine influence, which worked from south to north, and the superseding of the Irish system by that of Saint Benedict. The point is that all this fervent and civilizing monastic life had its origin in Egypt while that country still formed part of the Catholic Church.


Nubia is the district lying to the south of the southern border of Egypt, the region south of Wadi Halfa and north of Khartoum. It is now entirely Moslem in religion, though for centuries its inhabitants were Christians. Very little was known about its history or the nature of its Christian life until recently and what is coming to light today is the result of on site archaeological investigations being carried on at the present time. These diggings have been undertaken to discover the Christian past of Nubia before part of it disappears for ever beneath the waters of the proposed man-made lake which will result from the building of the High Dam at Aswan, which is now being executed. [1964] The remains of sixty Christian Churches are now known and from these it appears that the Church was introduced into this area some time between the fourth and sixth centuries, and that the main influence was Byzantine and not Coptic, as is revealed by the decoration of the Churches. The Christian civilization of Nubia came to an end when it was conquered by Moslems from the north under Saladin in the 12th century.

Christianity came to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in a different manner. [The Ethiopian Baptized by St. Philip in the Book of Acts Chapter 8 may have been from a district further North along the Nile, or he may not have successfully established a viable long- lasting branch of the Church.] While travelling in the East two young men, one of whom was called Frumentius, arrived as prisoners in Ethiopia as a result of ill fortune frequently suffered by voyagers in those days of the fourth century at the hands of sea pirates. Frumentius and his companion later became men of influence in the land and rose to the rank of governors. They were Christians and preached the Christian faith while in Abyssinia. Later Frumentius came to Alexandria where he found the great St. Athanasius in the Patriarchal Chair of St. Mark. Having been raised to the dignity and power of Bishop by St. Athanasius, Frumentius returned to Abyssinia and converted its people to the Christian faith.

In the early Church, consecration by a bishop gave the bishop a superiority of jurisdiction over the prelate consecrated by him. Thus when new territory was acquired by the growing Church it was added to the district of the Patriarch who had consecrated its bishop. Thus Abyssinia naturally fell under the influence of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and followed the great See in the lead it gave. The secession of the Copts in 451 A.D. entailed that of the Abyssinians, though this primitive people cannot be considered to be guilty of serious fault on account of their inability to understand what the schism was all about. The country had scarcely been converted when the breach came. It can scarcely be said that the Abyssinians sinned against the light.

Let us pray that the Good Shepherd will hear the intercessions of St Mark and St Frumentius and all the Egyptian, Nubian and Ethiopian Saints as we join them in praying for the swift re-union of these ancient churches - the Coptic and the Ethiopian.

The Armenian Church by Rev. J. Murtagh S.M.A.

Catholic Truth Society of Ireland No. DD. 1045 (1965).



Armenia is divided, unlike Gaul, into two, not three parts, Greater Armenia and, Lesser Armenia. The position of Greater Armenia is easily found on the map [and is now an independent nation]. It lies between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea It is bordered on the north by the Soviet Republic of Georgia and on the east by the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan [both are now independent nations]. The western frontier is partly the Black Sea and partly Turkey, while to the south-west and south it adjoins Iran. Since 1920 it has been part of the U.S.S.R. and today it is one of the sixteen Republics which form this unity. [In 1980 the U.S.S.R. dissolved and Armenia became independent.] It is a mountainous country and much of its arable land consists of valleys situated at various altitudes among the mountains, in consequence, it enjoys a wide variety of climates. Being so mountainous, only one quarter of the territory is arable but what can be cultivated. produces cereals, cotton, grapes and tobacco as well as other crops. It ranks second among the cotton-producing regions of the U.S.S.R., the first place going to its neighbour, Azerbaijan. It is said to produce thirty-seven different kinds of grapes from which wine and brandy are made. Since its absorption into the U.S.S.R., agriculture has been mechanized and the Republic has shown increased productivity. Industry, too, has developed and factories for the production of rubber, chemicals, armaments and other goods have been set up. It lacks oil and coal but the fast flowing rivers have been harnessed and the resulting electric power is employed to serve the needs of industry. Lesser Armenia is in South-eastern Turkey astride the Cilician Mountains.


The population of Greater Armenia does not exceed 1,400,000 but Armenians scattered about Georgia, Azerbaijan and other districts in Russia. number about a further 800,000, thus giving a total of about 2,200,000 in the U.S.S.R. Many Armenians have figured prominently in different spheres of life in Russia. Probably the best known of all Soviet Armenians is Anastas Mikoyan, one of the vice-presidents of the U.S.S.R. who has travelled a great deal in western countries on behalf of Russia. The inventor of the Mig, the Russian fighter plane, was a brother of Anastas Mikoyan. During the second world war there were thirty generals of Armenian origin in the Russian army, the best known of whom was General Bagramian, Commander of the First Baltic Army.


Tradition has associated the resting place of Noah's Ark after the Flood with Mount Ararat, a mountain rising to almost 20,000 feet which was formerly in Armenia but which now lies just outside its frontier in Turkey. The Armenians, even claim to possess a portion of the Ark at Etchmiadzin, the ecclesiastical capital, situated near the Turkish frontier not far from Yerevan, the civil capital. There seems to be little support in history for the claim but this does not deter enthusiasts whom one reads about in the newspapers, from going off to Mount Ararat to search for what may be left of Noah's Ark. Another association of the Armenians with Noah is the name which they give to their race, Haik, after the grandson of Japheth, the son of Noah. Haik is a very common baptismal name among the Armenians.

Lesser Armenia

Lesser Armenia came into being in the twelfth century when persecution by the Moslems (especially the Seljuk Turks after the Seljuk victory in the Battle of Manzikert) forced many Armenians to flee to Cilicia in Asia Minor, near the border with present day Syria. The persecution was additionally caused by the willing aid which the Armenians gave to the Crusaders in their struggle to occupy and hold Jerusalem and Palestine with their holy places so sacred to Christians. It was the support and protection afforded to the Armenians by the Crusaders which enabled them to establish the Kingdom of Cilicia which endured until 1375, when the Moslem victories against the Franks caused it to collapse. Cilicia remained a strong centre of Armenian influence with a large Armenian population until recent times when the massacres of large numbers forced most of the others to flee during a period lasting from 1895 till the end of the first world war.


The Armenians are a people of Indo-European extraction who settled in Greater Armenia several centuries before the Christian era. Throughout their history they have shown a tradition of sympathy towards the west and look upon themselves as a bridge between Europe and the east and the vanguard of the European way of life among Orientals.


Their lot has been one of incessant struggle and misfortune which has revealed a tremendous spirit of tenacity and endurance and a resolute determination to remain distinct as a nation with its own characteristics, culture and language. It must be confessed with embarrassment that the dissident Armenians who form the great majority have shown greater attachment to their language and culture than the Catholic minority who tend much more easily to frequent schools where English and French are the main medium of instruction. Almost without exception the dissident Armenians will insist on securing at least a solid grounding in their own language in a school where it is the medium of instruction, though all must become proficient in a European language since Armenian is an unknown tongue in the countries where so many Armenians have settled outside Russia. A notable exception to this apathy among Armenian Catholics is the religious Order of the Mekhitarist Fathers who follow a Benedictine rule and whose contribution to Armenian literature is gratefully acknowledged by all.


The Armenians are a highly intelligent people with special gifts in the fields of music and the arts. They have many representatives who are of world renown in painting and music, such as Khatchadourian and Spendiarian, the famous composers and Sarian the painter. They show a strong interest in photography and it is no accident that Karsh, the American photographer, one of the most outstanding in the world, is of Armenian origin. He has co-operated with Mgr. Fulton Sheen in the production of books, such as one on the Holy Land, which require illustration with first class photos. The Armenians also excel in commerce and in this connection the name of Gulbenkian comes to mind at once. Mr 'Five Per Cent', as he was known, built up an enormous fortune and with it set up the Gulbenkian Foundation which helps worthy causes even among non-Armenians and from which even Ireland has benefited.


Christianity came to Armenia from Cappodocia in Asia Minor which itself had been evangelized from the great Patriarchate of Antioch, the first See of St. Peter which the apostle left to come to Rome. Antioch was a city of Greek language and culture and it was here that the followers of Christ were first called Christians. (See Acts 11: 26). It was from here that St. Paul set off on the first three of his missionary journeys and where he returned at the end of the first and second and where he caused great joy to the first Christians by announcing the conversion of so many of the first Gentiles and the breaking down of the wall of separation which had been keeping them outside the Church. From this great centre the Church spread throughout Syria and the Lebanon and Asia Minor, where the region of Cappodocia lies. As Armenia was not far away, it was natural that the faith should have come to it from Cappodocia. The Armenians themselves attribute their conversion to the work of the Apostles St. Bartholomew and St Jude Thaddeus, but this has no support in history and generally the tradition is believed to be spurious. The work of St Gregory the Illuminator, is more certain and he is said to have been responsible for the conversion of the King of Armenia and a great part of the population at the end of the third century A.D.

St Gregory had been consecrated bishop at Caesarea in Cappodocia and it was inevitable that the liturgy and religious customs of that city should have been followed by the Armenians. As Cappodocia had taken these from Antioch, the liturgy of Armenia can be said to have originated in Antioch. The liturgy at Caesarea was carried out in Greek and when it was transplanted to Armenia, it was celebrated in Greek there, too, at the beginning.

At the end of the fourth century A.D. the Armenian language replaced Greek, as the invention of an alphabet for this tongue by Mesrop enabled the Armenians to translate the scriptures and the liturgy into their own language and to secure greater religious independence. They have the distinction of being the first Christian nation in history.

The Armenian dissidents of today call their Church the 'Orthodox Church of Armenia.' The title 'Orthodox' is claimed by all dissident Churches. In its strict meaning it designates a Church which claims to teach the true doctrine of Christ, but custom attributes it to the Churches of the Byzantine Rite and it should not be used in speaking of other Churches such as those which hold the doctrines of Nestorianism and Monophysitism. As the Armenian Church is monophysite, one should not refer to it as 'orthodox.' The tendency in Catholic circles today is not to employ the term at all in speaking of the separated Churches of the East lest this may imply the correctness of their claim to be the true Church of Christ. There is an even stronger tendency among Catholics to avoid the use of epithets such as 'heretical' or 'schismatical' which are liable to hurt the feelings of the members of these Churches, most of whom are acknowledged to be in good faith.


The Armenians, then, are Monophysites in faith and as such are cut off from both the Catholic Church and the separated Churches of the Byzantine Rite. Monophysitism teaches that in Jesus Christ there is only one nature, the divine nature, and that his human nature was swallowed up by his divinity. This teaching is opposed to that of the Catholic Church with which the Churches of the Byzantine Rite agree, and which holds that in Our Lord there are two natures, complete and unmixed, joined in perfect unity in the single person of the Son of God. The doctrine was defined by the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon held in 451 A.D. There are three Monophysite communities, the dissident Copts of Egypt, the Jacobites in Syria and the separated Armenians. The Armenians were not present at Chalcedon, being detained at home by the very great necessity of defending themselves from aggressors. They were defeated in battle in that year in which Chalcedon was held. The year 451 A.D. is still commemorated annually among the Armenians but it is Vartan and his glorious defeat which is celebrated and not the Council of Chalcedon. They seem not to have learned of the nature of the decrees of the Council until later, when conditions were more settled in their own country and Armenia was again 'open to tourists.' When they did learn of the decrees, they refused to accept them, largely out of a spirit of opposition to the East Roman or Byzantine Empire with its centre at Constantinople, for the Greeks and West Romans with their centre at Rome had approved of the decisions of the Council.

It is becoming clearer that most of the early schisms were for the most part political rather than religious in origin and that the separatists used doctrinal differences as a means of expressing their disagreement with colonialist powers or disagreeable neighbours. The results have been none the less calamitous for Christian unity because of the reasons behind the schisms and the magnitude of the problem of reunion today should serve as timely warnings for the future. In 491 A.D., forty years after the Council of Chalcedon, the Armenian Church held a council at Vagarshapat, at which the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon were condemned and from which the state of separation from both Rome and Constantinople is reckoned. Relations were re-established on more than one occasion later, but the Armenians returned to their isolation as the political conditions favouring rapprochement with Constantinople deteriorated and the advantages of reunion diminished. As Constantinople had not yet broken with Rome, Armenian reconciliation with the Byzantines meant a return to Catholic unity.


When the Crusades began, the Armenians came into contact with the Latins, whom they aided in maintaining their precarious hold on the holy places in Palestine and the overland supply routes through Asia Minor. With the help of the Franks the Armenian Kingdom of Lesser Armenia was established and reunion with Rome declared in 1198. The Armenian Rite bears the marks of that period of reconciliation when it took over elements from the Latin Rite some of which it has retained to the present day as it will be shown later. The defeat of the Crusaders by the Moslems necessarily involved the disappearance of the independent Kingdom of Lesser Armenia which came about in 1375 A.D. Nothing exhibits more clearly than the fate of the reunion with Rome the political nature of both reconciliation and schism in past centuries, for with the elimination of the Kingdom of Lesser Armenia went the state of reunion with Rome. Contact with the West seems to have stimulated the Armenians, for the period during which they were reunited with Rome marks the golden age of Armenian religious literature. In Lesser Armenia a religious order, called the Brothers of Unity came into being as a result of the labours of the Dominican Fathers, recently established as a religious order by St Dominic, whose rule the Brothers of Unity followed. Like the reunion, it came to an end after the defeat of the Crusaders.

The Armenians were represented at the Council of Florence held in 1429 A.D. and signed the decree of reunion which was never put into effect. One relic remains of this abortive effort to secure reunion, in the form of a document drawn up by Rome for the guidance of the Armenians on the question of the sacraments, and is taken almost word for word from the works of St Thomas Aquinas. However, groups of Armenians remained loyal here and there to the Catholic Church but without leadership until 1742 when they received a hierarchy which set up its headquarters in Kraim in the Lebanon.


The Armenians refer to their Church also as the Gregorian Church of Armenia after the missionary who introduced the Christian faith to their country, St Gregory the Illuminator. In theory the Gregorian Church, or the 'Armenian Apostolic Church,' is a unity but in practice there are four autonomous Sees with the Patriarch of Greater Armenia holding a primacy of honour.


The Catholicate of Etchmiadzin in Greater Armenia. The Patriarch is referred to as the Catholicos which has the meaning of 'universal ruler.' Out of the 2,200,000 Armenians in the U.S.S.R. it is difficult to say how many have remained faithful to their Church. The Catholicos of Etchmiadzin claims authority also over the dissident Armenians in Egypt, Iraq, Europe and the U.S.A. but not all acknowledge him.

The Catholicate of Sis in Cilicia. This is the See of the Catholicos of Lesser Armenia Most of those who escaped with their lives after the massacres of 1895 and subsequent years fled from Turkey so that the importance of this Catholicate is now greatly diminished. The Catholicos moved his seat to Antilyas in near-by Lebanon, though he retains his original title. He also claims jurisdiction over dissident Armenians living in the Lebanon, Syria and the island of Cyprus.

The Patriarchate of Jerusalem. This Church became independent of the Catholicate of Sis in the fourteenth century when the monks of the Monastery of St James refused to accept the decisions of the Council of Sis held in 1307. Owing to its ancient connections with the Holy City, the Armenian Patriarchate shares the right to celebrate religious services in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with the Latins, Byzantine dissidents, the Copts and the Ethiopians. The division of Palestine into Israel and Jordan in 1948 led to financial difficulties for the Armenian Patriarchate, as much of its property was situated in the region occupied by the Israelis. The great distress suffered by Armenians in Jordan as a result of the Arab-Israeli war [of 1948] could not be sufficiently relieved by the alms of the Patriarchate which were then insufficient to come to the aid of all the needy.

The Patriarchate of Constantinople. The exodus of Armenians from Turkey after the massacres by the Turks resulted in a great decrease in the importance of this See. Out of an Armenian population of one and a half millions only about seventy thousand remain.

A fifth See, the Catholicate of Aghtamar in Persia, has become extinct in recent times. Through the massacres of Armenians during the first world war and the exodus which followed, none of the 95,000 of the faithful remained a few years after the termination of hostilities.

Communities of Armenians of varying sizes can be found scattered throughout Europe but those in Lyons and Marseilles are among the largest. The links with France have their origin during the Crusades. They were strengthened in the nineteenth century when the French gave their support to the Armenians in their difficulties with the Turks.

Catholics of the Armenian Rite (Uniates) are much fewer in number than the Gregorian Armenians and they do not exceed 100,000 in all. Until recently they were ruled by their Patriarch, Cardinal Agaganian, who was born in a village not far from Batum, a port on the Black Sea in the territory of the U.S.S.R. As he is a member of the Roman Curia, and Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda Fidei, his many duties forced him to renounce his position as Patriarch and a successor was appointed. The full title of the holder of the office is 'Patriarch of the Catholic Armenians and Catholicos of Cilicia,' though he now resides in Beirut in the Lebanon which is also the See of an Archdiocese ruled directly by the Patriarch. There are also dioceses of Armenian Catholics in Constantinople, Aleppo, Baghdad, Alexandria and Isphahan in Persia.


The development of literature in the Armenian language owes much to a Catholic Religious Order, called the Mekhitarists, which was established in the Morea (Greece) in the eighteenth century by Mekhitar, the founder, under the protection of the Venetians who were in control of the area. When the Venetians withdrew from the area, Mekhitar was obliged to transfer his Congregation to Venice where he was allowed to set up his religious foundation on the island of San Lazaro. The Congregation, which follows the rule of St Benedict and is devoted to the advancement of learning, set up a printing press for the publication of works in the Armenian language or relating to Armenia Later, the Order split into two parts, one retaining its headquarters on the island of San Lazaro and the other setting up its mother-house in Vienna. These Congregations have established schools throughout the world for the education of Armenians wherever they are to be found in large numbers. These schools are notable for their zeal for the Armenian language, chant and customs, and work for both Armenian Catholics and Gregorian Armenians. In this the Mekhitarists differ from the secular priests of the Armenian Catholic Rite who are said to show less enthusiasm for the Armenian language and are therefore less acceptable to the dissidents who regard them and their faithful as being a little less than complete Armenians.

Apart from the two branches of the Mekhitarist Order, there is also a religious Order of women, called the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, which was founded in Rome in 1852 and which has established schools in many places for the education of girls.


Apart from the Gregorian Armenians and the Catholic Armenians there is also a body of Armenian Protestants whose numbers are estimated to be at least as high as those of the faithful of the Armenian Uniates (i.e. Catholic Armenians). In 1831 missionaries of the Presbyterian Church of America arrived in Constantinople and began work among the Armenians resident in that city, and finally succeeded in establishing themselves throughout Asia Minor. Their activities included the administration of schools and clinics. At first the Presbyterians proclaimed that they had no intention of making converts from among the Gregorians but this promise was forgotten and an Armenian Protestant Church was set up. In 1866 an American Presbyterian College was opened which has developed the flourishing American University, which together with the Jesuit University St Joseph, was responsible for the revival of Arabic literature at first in the Lebanon and finally throughout the Arab world. The Lebanese leaders in the revival were mostly Christians, but the first place has since passed to the Moslems of Egypt. The American University has received generous grants from both the Rockfeller Foundation and the Gulbenkian Foundation, as much as two and a half million dollars from the first-named philanthropic institute. The Protestant Armenians were very badly hit in the massacres they suffered at the hands of the Turks in Cilicia, especially during the most serious of all, those endured during the first world war. As a result, almost nothing is left there of the schools and clinics provided by the American Presbyterians. Many of the refugees fled to the Lebanon, especially Beirut which has now an Armenian quarter and a Protestant Armenian Community of about 12,000. After the second world war, a college was established in Beirut for the education of future preachers for which the necessary funds came from America, where there are many Armenian Protestants. Armenian Protestants can also be found in Cairo where they have a church.


Armenian church buildings are easily recognized from the outside. Like all church buildings influenced by the style of Constantinople they have a dome. In the Armenian Rite the dome is not round, as in the churches of the Byzantine Rite, but conical and is said to be built in the shape of the head-dress, called the veghar, worn by the clergy of the Gregorian Church. The interior of the church is characterized by simplicity of ornament. This severity of decoration in the interior of the church is the result of the iconoclast movement of the seventh and eight centuries. Statues are entirely forbidden but paintings are allowed, though these are few in number. Icons and religious paintings in private homes are not encouraged. The church building is usually rectangular in shape and the altar normally faces east. The Armenian altar is the only one among those of the dissident Churches to have gradines (steps or ledges) in the Latin style and is not flat as among the other separated Orientals. The sanctuary in which the altar stands is one of four parts of the church. Next to the sanctuary comes the choir which is always a step lower in height. The nave or main part of the building which holds the faithful during religious services is also a step lower than the choir. The vestibule near the main door is separated from the nave by a grill which has replaced the earlier custom of a dividing wall. In early times penitents and catechumens were obliged to remain in the vestibule and were not allowed to proceed into the nave.


There are usually three altars in an Armenian Church but two of these are simply for ornamentation and Mass is said only at the high altar. Daily celebration of the Mass has long been given up and the present custom is to celebrate Mass only on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as on feast days. There is no strict obligation on the faithful to assist at Mass on Sundays and feasts. In the matter of devotion the Armenian dissidents are not bound by any prescribed rules and failure to attend Mass on Sundays and Holidays (Holy Days) does not entail sin, whether mortal or venial. The obligation of keeping the Sabbath holy is fulfilled, according to the Patriarch of Constantinople, Mgr Ormanian, even by assisting at part of the Office said on Saturday evening. 'The Church contents herself with enjoining what is expedient.' (Ormanian. The Church of Armenia p. 153). Not many feasts are celebrated and some of these such as the Assumption of Our Lady, the Transfiguration and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross are transferred to the nearest Sunday. Christmas is celebrated, not on 25th December, but on 6th January (the Epiphany). The Sunday begins with the evening of Saturday and it is for this reason that assistance at an Office celebrated on Saturday evening is counted as a fulfilment of the divine precept of sanctifying the Sunday. [A similarity here to the post-Vatican II Catholic practice.]

It is clear that the obligation of religious worship has been reduced to a minimum.

The Armenian Gregorian Church is the only dissident Eastern Church to undergo latinisation in its liturgy. To this day she bears marks of her close association with the Crusaders in the Middle Ages when zeal for the faith was identified with enthusiasm for the spread of the Latin Rite and customs. The gradines on the Armenian altar bear witness to this process. Unleavened bread is used for the Sacrifice of the Mass and there are four minor orders, Porter, Lector, Exorcist and Acolyte as in the Latin Rite [until the reforms of the minor orders by Pope Paul VI in 1972].

Since the Armenian Catholics have been in contact with the Latins for a much longer period than the Gregorians were, they are, as might be expected, much more latinised than the Gregorians, for whom the process of latinisation ceased with the Crusades. The Armenian Catholics have evolved a low Mass which is unknown among the dissidents. It is read, not sung, and takes about the same length of time as the Latin Mass. Thus they have several Masses on Sundays and Feasts. It is especially in the taking over of Roman devotions that the latinisation of the Armenian Catholics is shown. Devotion to the Sacred Heart, the Rosary, St. Therese of the Child Jesus, the Way of the Cross, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament are all in favour among them. There is no suggestion that these devotions are not good, in themselves but it is doubtful whether wholesale conformity to the devotions and practices of the West is healthy for the Uniate Churches. They set up a barrier between Catholics and dissidents and make the latter fearful of their fate in the case of reunion with Rome. The Armenians have been particularly attached to their customs and culture and are not at all disposed to accept and submit to universal conformity in these matters. Their fears of Roman pressure to spread Latin customs have a foundation in history and they have need of being reassured of the complete change of attitude on these matters in the west. Recent Popes have already given assurances to the dissident East that in the case of their reunion with Rome the integrity of their customs will be preserved and the discussions on the liturgy in the Second Council of the Vatican have shown how wide-spread among the bishops the new and more healthy ideas are.

As has been remarked earlier the Armenian liturgy derives from that of Antioch in Syria through Caesarea in Cappodocia. There is a preparatory rite of corresponding to the 'Prothesis' of the Byzantine Church during which the bread and wine of the sacrifice are prepared but this takes place in the sacristy and not at a special altar. The Armenian side altars are merely for decoration and there is no altar of the 'Prothesis' as in the Byzantine Rite. The Armenian Mass properly so called begins at the foot of the altar and in this it is different to the other Oriental Rites. This singularity suggests Latin influence and the suspicion is made stronger and even certain by the recitation of the 'Introibo ad altare' psalm [the 'I will go to the altar of God' psalm which was part of the Latin liturgy until the 'Novus Ordo' Mass of Pope Paul VI] and the 'Confiteor.' ['I confess.'] The Creed recited after the Gospel is neither the Apostles Creed nor the Nicene Creed but one peculiar to the Armenian Rite. The Armenians are also exceptional in that they are the only Oriental Christians who do not add a little water to the wine for consecration. The reason for not using water seems to have been a gesture which had as its purpose to avoid their being confused with other early Christians of Gnostic leanings who condemned wine as evil and used only water for "consecration" in the Mass. The Gregorians always chant the Mass and the ceremony is therefore a lengthy one, lasting about two hours. They have taken over the Latin Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament with the hymns in Armenian and set to Armenian music, which, though oriental in character, is pleasant to western ears.

The Armenian Church is not one of those which celebrate the liturgy in a living language. The language employed is ancient or classical Armenian which is not fully understood by those conversant with only the modern version. Ancient Armenian is related to modern Armenian in the way that classical Greek is related to modern Greek. The vocabulary is largely the same but the declensions of nouns and verb endings have been simplified through the centuries, in accordance with the tendency of spoken languages to become less complex in the course of time. Armenian is a language of the Indo-European group for which a special script was invented by Mesrop in the fourth century.


The liturgical vestments in use are eastern in character, too. The celebrant wears an alb with a cincture in the form of a narrow band of material of the same colour as the vestment. The amice, however, is distinct and takes the form of a square piece of linen or cotton to one edge of which is attached a rather stiff cardboard covered with material of the same kind and colour as the cope which takes the place of the Latin chasuble. The amice is so worn as to form a collar round the neck of the celebrant and helps to give an appearance of neatness to the liturgical dress. The cope referred to differs from that used by the Latins in so far as it has no cape and is curved and not rectangular, in front. During part of the Mass the celebrant wears an ornate crown which is said to be Persian in origin. In common with other Oriental Churches, the celebrant in the Armenian Rite carries a small hand cross with which he gives the numerous blessings required by the ceremonies.

Armenian bishops, both Gregorian and Catholic, use the mitre and crozier of the Latin bishops. This is explained by the close contact of the Armenians with the Latin Crusaders over a period of more than two hundred years. The traditional oriental crozier which ends in twin serpents' heads is reserved for those enjoying the office of 'Vardapet.' The Maronites, Catholics, who have no dissident counterparts, from Lebanon also use the Latin mitre and crozier. Thus the two peoples who co-operated most closely with the Franks are, as might be expected, the two which show most clearly the effects in their liturgical customs.


The Gregorian Armenians are very vague on the subject of the sacraments, though in practice they use most of them. Baptism is conferred by a triple immersion, one in the name of each Person of the Holy Trinity. The form of baptism is couched as a prayer and thus differs slightly from the straightforward affirmative of the Latin form. 'Let N . . . be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.' Even in case of necessity only a priest is allowed by them to confer this most necessary of sacraments. Baptism is always immediately followed by the conferring of the sacrament of Confirmation as is the custom among all the Orientals, except the Uniate Maronites, who were induced by the Latins during the Crusades to follow the custom of the West and defer it to a more mature age. The Armenians are so strict about the conferring Confirmation immediately after Baptism that many of their scholars hold that the ceremony of Baptism without Confirmation is invalid. The Eucharist is also given on the occasion of Baptism and after Confirmation. If the recipient is an infant, the priest dips his finger into the Precious Blood and makes the sign of the cross on the infant's lips saying, 'The plenitude of the Holy Spirit.' In general the other Eastern Churches agree with the Armenians in considering the sacrament of Confirmation to be, with the Eucharist, the complement of Baptism. (So does Latin theology, but the Latin custom prefers to wait for the more mature years when an infant is baptized.)


The doctrine of the Eucharist is that of the Catholic Church and includes an acceptance of Transubstantiation, though some authors, such as Ormanian, deny this explanation of the manner of Christ's Real Presence in the Sacrament. The leavened bread used for the confection of the Eucharist is much thicker than the Latin host. This greatest of sacraments is received infrequently and most of the faithful, even the fervent, are satisfied with receiving the Eucharist three times a year on the major feasts.

The Catholic Church teaches that the words of consecration in the Mass are sufficient of themselves to effect the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The Armenians take the view of other dissident Oriental Churches that the invocation of the Holy Ghost which follows the words of consecration in the Eastern liturgies are also required for the validity of the Sacrifice of the Mass and that Christ does not become present in the bread and wine until the Epiclesis or invocation of the Holy Ghost has been said. There is an invocation of the Holy Ghost in the Latin Mass of Pope Pius V, but it comes immediately after the offering of the wine and water and before the 'Lavabo.' ('I will wash my hands' - the washing of fingers.) [The Novus Ordo Mass of Pope Paul VI does not have the invocation of the Holy Spirit at the Offertory, but it is explicit in the Alternative Eucharistic prayers and it is held to be implicit in the words of the Prayer 'Bless and approve our offering . . . ' just before the Consecration in the Roman Canon of Eucharistic Prayer One.]


Penance is also in use among the Gregorian Armenians but its reception is restricted to the major feasts and in preparation for Holy Communion on these occasions. Detailed confession of sin is not required, except among the Armenian Catholics, and the usual practice is for the priest to read aloud a list of the more common sins to the penitents, for they may be many at the same time, express even inwardly their guilt and the priest gives a general absolution. This method would be considered invalid in the Catholic Church, (except in an emergency and when accompanied by a determination to confess mortal sins to a priest at the earliest opportunity.)


The Sacrament of the Sick is no longer in use in the Gregorian Armenian Church and to explain why this is so, Ormanian invokes a distinction between a dogma and a doctrine. 'The dogma is a proposition drawn from the sacred books and expressed in a formula which is both clear and distinct. It should be accepted by the follower; of a given Church, on pain of estrangement from the bosom of that Church. The doctrine is a statement or explanation, equally drawn from the sacred books and collaborated by tradition. Consequently, it may be accepted as an assertion which is sound and positive, or it may be quasi-positive; but it imposes no obligation on the faithful to comply with it.' (The Church of Armenia p. 90.) Later (p. 102) he states that the doctrine of the Sacrament of the Sick 'cannot be accepted by the Armenians.' It is difficult to follow the reasoning of the above author and the illogical argument must be considered to be an attempt to explain, post factum, the present custom of neglecting this sacrament.


The dissident Armenians are the only Church separated from Rome in holding four Minor and three Major Orders. Like the Latins, they have the Minor Orders of Porter, Lector, Exorcist and Acolyte and the three Major Orders of Sub-diaconate, Diaconate and Priesthood, whereas other dissident Churches have fewer Minor Orders and some of them count Sub-diaconate among the Minor Orders. [In 1972 Pope Paul VI issued reforms in the Minor Orders for the Latin Rite. Now, there are only two Minor Orders, Lector and Acolyte, now termed 'ministries'. The Sub-diaconate was abolished.] Diaconate and the priesthood impose the obligation of celibacy on those who are not married; that is to say, priests may be married provided that the marriage is contracted before the reception of the Diaconate. Among the Armenian Catholic clergy celibacy is universal. Preaching the word of God is confined to a special class of priests, called Vardapets, who are specially trained for the function. The Vardapets carry the oriental crozier with the heads of two serpents facing each other as the emblem of their office. The ordinary priest is unfitted to preach because of the poor facilities for their religious education, there being no seminaries strictly so called. As the Vardapets are few in number, the result is that the faithful are ill-instructed in the faith. The, office of Vardapet is to be found only among the Armenians. It is a very ancient institution and goes back to the fifth century. The jurisdiction of the office of Vardapet, symbolized by the crozier, varies with the degree of the office conferred.


The Armenians see in the consent of the contracting parties the essence of the marriage contract. The ceremonies surrounding the sacrament of marriage resemble those of other Eastern Churches, particularly those of the Byzantine Rite. The verbal expression of consent is followed by readings from appropriate passages of the Sacred Scriptures. Crowns are placed on the heads of the bride and bridegroom and these are interchanged, that of the bridegroom being transferred to the head of the bride and vice versa, to symbolize the unity between man and wife. As elsewhere, besides the priest, there are two witnesses. As among all the dissident Orientals divorce is allowed in the case of adultery. The Armenians, however, admit several other reasons for divorce such as abandonment of the family for seven years, sodomy or other unnatural vice, attempts on the life of the other partner, madness incurred subsequent to marriage and contagious diseases such as leprosy. The strict Catholic attitude (in conformity with Sacred Scripture) of never allowing divorce is likely to cause considerable difficulties in the event of discussions concerning reunion between Rome and the Gregorians.


It has been pointed out that the doctrine of Monophysitism is held by the Armenians in common with the Jacobites of Syria and the dissident Copts of Egypt, but the Armenians seem to have gone further in their aberrations concerning the union of the divine and human natures in Christ. The basis of Monophysitism was a distrust of matter and an overemphasis on the spiritual, a form of angelism induced by various sects which owed much to Gnostic ideas. An extreme form of this excessive spirituality was Docetism which taught that the body of Christ was only imaginary and that Our Lord only seemed to have a body. The Armenians are accused, even by their fellow Monophysists, the Jacobites and Copts, of having taught this doctrine in the centuries following their break with the universal Church. It would follow that God suffered in His Divine Nature during the Passion and Crucifixion. In recent times Armenian writers have little to say on the subject. They still, however, maintain their belief in Monophysitism and their rejection of the Council of Chalcedon. Modern Catholic writers believe that part of the trouble at the time of Chalcedon was the difficulty of finding exact translations in other languages of the Greek terms for nature and person. This gives hope that in the case of reunion between Rome and the dissident East, the question of Monophysitism will not present insuperable difficulties.


Their errors in Christology have not prevented the Armenians from exalting the Blessed Virgin and attributing to her the qualities and privileges so readily accorded to her in the Catholic Church. They believe in her perpetual virginity, her divine maternity, her assumption into heaven and her universal mediatorship. However, the definition of the Immaculate Conception by the Pope in 1854 led some Armenian authors to deny this doctrine. They show Our Lady the tenderest devotion and one of the few paintings exhibited in Armenian churches features Christ and His mother.

Apart from Monophysitism, the chief obstacle in the way of reunion with the Catholic Church is the divergent teaching of the Gregorian Armenians on the question of the primacy of the Pope and his infallibility. Their view of the Church is that it has unity but that this does not necessitate one visible head on earth. They hold the only head of the Church is Jesus Christ who has no visible representative on earth. The Patriarchs are all equal and enjoy full authority within the limits of the territory and peoples subject to them. The primacy of the Pope, which they admit, is only a, primacy of honour and gives him no rights in jurisdiction over the other Patriarchs though in the event of an Ecumenical Council representing all the Oriental dissidents as well as the Catholics, the Holy Father's right to preside is admitted, but only as first among equals.


The Gregorian Armenians recognize only three Ecumenical Councils, the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. the Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D. and that held at Ephesus in 431 A.D. Ormanian says that for a Council to be truly Ecumenical and to possess the authority to make dogmatic definitions, all Churches both of the East and the West must be represented and that in view of the divided state of Christians since the fifth century this condition cannot be fulfilled nor is it likely to be fulfilled in the future. He died in 1918 and his pessimism concerning the possibility of reunion of Christians must be viewed in the light of developments in the ecumenical movement since then and of the almost universal desire for unity throughout the world. He could not have foreseen that official representatives of his own Gregorian Church would one day assist as official observers at the Second Council of the Vatican. Strange to say, Ormanian himself had assisted at the First Council of the Vatican in 1870 in the capacity of theologian for he was then a Catholic priest of the Armenian Rite. Some time after 1870 he left the Catholic Church and joined the Gregorian Armenians where his superior education soon brought him promotion. He eventually became Patriarch of Constantinople in 1890 and retained the post till 1908. He died in 1918. His book on the Armenian Church is, as might be expected, anti-Catholic in tone.


Most of the Eastern dissident Churches, including the Armenians, are shy about using the word 'Purgatory' and they go so far as to deny the existence of this intermediate state of purification. In practice this theoretical denial does not seem to matter much as they pray for the dead. The Armenians believe in heaven but not in the Beatific Vision for they hold that no one can ever see God face to face, not even the blessed endowed with the light of glory. Instead they teach that the saints see the brightness of God, which is distinct from His Essence.

They do not mention in their writings nowadays the question of the procession of the Holy Ghost. They seem to have agreed with the Latins until the thirteenth century for they recited the 'Filioque' in their Creed, ('He proceeds from the Father and the Son'.) The suppression of this phrase after the thirteenth century implies that the Armenians shifted over to the Greek view that the Holy Ghost proceeded from the Father alone. This vagueness of teaching is typical of all the separated Eastern Churches. On most subjects writers can be quoted in a heretical sense but this can be balanced by quotations from other writers of the same Church in an orthodox sense and he who expects to find the Catholic precision of doctrine among the dissidents will be disappointed.


In the case of the Gregorian Armenians, reunion among themselves is desirable before they can make much progress on the subject of reunion with others, for they themselves are hopelessly divided. The cause of all the trouble is the geographical position of present-day Armenia and its present status [1965] as one of the Republics of the U.S.S.R. All Armenians seem to have taken a stand on the attitude to be adopted towards Russia and are either pro- or anti-Russian. To be pro-Russian in the case of the Armenians does not necessarily mean the same thing as pro-Communist. Armenians are extremely nationalistic, even though separated from the homeland and exiled in foreign countries, as so many of them are. To be pro-Russian means for most of them to be pro-Armenian, since Armenia is at present situated within the borders of the U.S.S.R. and co-operation with the Russians is thought to be useful for the welfare of Armenia. The group which advocates this policy is called the 'Ramgavar' which, strange to say, was created outside Russia in the early years of the present 20th century, while the violent anti-Russian party, the 'Dashnak' was created in Greater Armenia at the end of the nineteenth century in self-defence against persecution at the hands of the Russians. The 'Ramgavar' are pro-Russian because of their memories of the massacres of Armenians at the hands of the Turks.

Thus Armenians have become divided throughout the world for they have brought their divisions with them wherever they have settled, though Armenian Catholics seem to belong to neither party, while being strongly anti-Communist. The Russian authorities have encouraged the Ramgavar abroad and crushed the Dashnak at home. They support the Patriarch of Etchmiadzin and work for the acceptance of his authority abroad so that more and more Armenians may declare their support for the Soviet Union. In 1933, a schism resulted in which the Dashnak supporters withdrew their allegiance from bishops peddling Soviet influence in the U.S.A. In the same year, a pro-Russian Archbishop was murdered in Boston and the blame was laid at the door of the Dashnak who already had a reputation for violence. The pro-Russian group seems to have had more success than their opponents in taking over Church buildings for their exclusive use and therefore stands the greater chance of being considered the official Armenian Church in the U.S.A. The struggle has been extended to other parts of the world particularly the Middle East, where a struggle between the two camps can be seen for the possession of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

The tragic history of the Armenian people throughout the centuries makes them worthy of the attention, sympathy and prayers of all Catholics. Their incessant struggles have been necessitated by their determination to remain distinct as a nation, to preserve their Christian faith and to avoid being absorbed by nations waging war against them in order to force them to submit to their own non-Christian religions, such as the Mazdaism of the Persians and the Islamic religion of the Arabs. If their Christianity seems at times to have become suspect of being a support for nationalism, we must take into consideration what they have endured and not judge them too harshly. Perhaps the most frightening period of all Armenian history lies in recent times, between 1890 and 1920 when massacre after massacre in Turkey earned for them the doubtful honour of being the world's most persecuted people. The last massacre was the worst of all, when during the 1914-1918 war a million Armenians lost their lives and many thousands of others suffered unlimited injustices and indecencies For having remained faithful to Christ through it all, they have surely won the special affection of all other Christians.

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