On the Feast of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, having a few days ago celebrated the Feast of the Apostle Saint Bartholomew (August 24th) who, together with Saint Jude Thaddeus, brought Christ to Armenia in the First Christian Century, my mind turns to His Holiness Pope Benedict XV and his tireless efforts to come to the aid of the Armenian people while the horror of genocide was unleashed upon them at the beginning of the First World War. In his discourse on the occasion of the Consistory for the Creation of Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, on December 6, 1915, he reflected upon the most turbulent state of the world at the time. Making special reference to the Armenian people, he declared: “The most pitiable Armenian people are brought near to annihilation” [“miserrima Armeniorum gens prope ad interitum adducitur”] (Acta Apostolicae Sedis VII, p. 510).
Our Armenian brothers and sisters know well what it is to be massacred for their faith, their history, their way of life imbued with Christian joy. They know what it is carry the cross with Our Lord, to be hunted and arrested on false charges, to be marched through the desert without food and water, to be slaughtered. Theirs is the honor of being Christian from the time of the Apostles Bartholomew and Jude Thaddeus. In their unceasing love for Christ, they have shed their blood in witness to the truth of the Apostolic faith.
Now, they are being assaulted again. Since December of 2022, the 120,000 Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh (or Artsakh, as they call their ancient homeland) have been under siege. They have no more gas for energy. They have no public or private means of transportation. Their farmers are assailed at gunpoint and cannot harvest their crops. They are running dangerously low on food.
Courts have denounced the siege. Governments have denounced the siege. But, as of now, no one has come to the side of the victims of this gravest of injustices to alleviate their hunger and thirst.
The voice of Our Lord rings clearly in our ears: “as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25, 40). His words must remain always in our hearts which, as St. Augustine reminds us, are restless until they rest in His Most Sacred Heart. There is no place for silence and inaction before the cruel persecution, indeed the annihilation of our Armenian brothers and sisters.
Let us give public voice to what Our Lord inspires in our hearts on behalf of our Armenian brothers and sisters, so that all may hear. Let us raise up to Our Lord fervent and ceaseless prayers for the Armenian people. Let us also come to their side. Let us bring them food and drink.
I hope one day to make pilgrimage to the Lachin Corridor. It is a very ancient Armenian place in which are venerated the bones of the Apostle Jude Thaddeus who, with Saint Bartholomew, first preached the Gospel in Armenia. Let us all make pilgrimage, at least by our daily prayers, to celebrate with joy the living presence of Our Lord among His brothers and sisters of Armenia.
The Gospel declares to us: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1, 5). With Saints Bartholomew and Jude Thaddeus, let us stand with the Light Who is Christ, the King of Heaven and Earth, the King of Peace, on behalf of His faithful in Armenia, our brothers and sisters subject to such terrible suffering.
Please join me in prayer and in action at the side of the Armenian people.