The Pontifical Oriental Institute on Thursday held a “moment of reflection” to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the “Metz Yeghern, the Great Evil: ter voghormia, Lord have mercy,” Vatican Radio reports.
Metz Yeghern is the traditional expression used for attacks by the government against ethnic Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Between one and one and a half million people are believed to have been killed between 1915 and 1918.
Thursday’s event centered on the presentation of the work of Father George Ryssen, SJ, and on the commemoration of alumni of the Pontifical Armenian College who were killed during that time. Father Ruyssen’s work, of which four of a projected seven volumes have been published, collects all the documents pertaining to the historical events to be found in the different archives of the Holy See.
The Prefect for the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri – who is also Chancellor of the Institute – attend the event, and addressed the participants.
In his remarks, Cardinal Sandri said the “moment of reflection” was not only an academic exercise, but was also “a Christian gesture of justice and mercy.” The event, he said, shows that we are untiring seekers after the Truth that is Christ; collaborators [working for] the coming of the city ‘in which dwells righteousness’; and supplicants invoking the intercession of the witnesses, the martyroi of the Armenian people” who made the supreme profession of faith by shedding their blood.
Cardinal Sandri also noted the gratitude of the Armenian people to the Pope of the time, Benedict XV. He said the work of Father Ruyssen “allows us to understand how the Holy See was diligent in attempting to stay the hands of the executioners, and to bring possible relief and aid to those who escaped the massacres that took place one hundred years ago.”
We are still saddened, he continued, for those who rose up to kill their neighbours, but even more, astonished by the silence of so many nations and so many powerful people, as we are still astonished to day on the part of others to speak with objectivity, to arrive at the longed-for goal of reconciliation, in truth and in justice.”
The mystery of evil, he said, “mysterium iniquitatis, that is able to flow from the heart of man, and that is made manifest in the destruction that every sin brings with it, compels us to get down on our knees, and pray, as we say in the subtitle of our meeting: “Ter voghormia… Lord have mercy!” Have mercy on man whom you have created, but who now is wounded, is far from you, poor, a sinner, capable, as Cain was, of conceiving death for his brother, capable of nourishing hatred and seeking vengeance.”
Cardinal Sandri concluded his remarks with the words of Benedict XVI during the former Pope’s visit to the extermination camp at Auschwitz: “We cannot peer into God’s mysterious plan – we see only piecemeal, and we would be wrong to set ourselves up as judges of God and history. Then we would not be defending man, but only contributing to his downfall. No – when all is said and done, we must continue to cry out humbly yet insistently to God: Rouse yourself! Do not forget mankind, your creature! And our cry to God must also be a cry that pierces our very heart, a cry that awakens within us God’s hidden presence – so that his power, the power he has planted in our hearts, will not be buried or choked within us by the mire of selfishness, pusillanimity, indifference or opportunism. Let us cry out to God, with all our hearts, at the present hour, when new misfortunes befall us, when all the forces of darkness seem to issue anew from human hearts: whether it is the abuse of God’s name as a means of justifying senseless violence against innocent persons, or the cynicism which refuses to acknowledge God and ridicules faith in him. Let us cry out to God, that he may draw men and women to conversion and help them to see that violence does not bring peace, but only generates more violence – a morass of devastation in which everyone is ultimately the loser.”