June 21, 2024


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  • 134 Years ago
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August 3, 1890

The feeling heart cannot withhold a tribute of sympathy from the Armenian Patriarch of Alexandria (sic!) (Constantinople). A week ago, while conducting service in his cathedral, that prelate was assaulted by his congregation and very despitefully entreated. He escaped with his life, but he left behind him his canonicals and his patriarchal dignity. When a Bishop so wears upon the patience of his flock that they find it necessary to pull him out of the pulpit and to kick him down the middle aisle, merrily breaking his pastoral staff over his back as he goes, it is obvious that his usefulness, as a Bishop is permanently impaired.

Even if these things were done to him by enemies of the faith it would be hard for him to hold up his head again, seeing that dignity and usefulness are synonymous terms when applied to the episcopal functions. If he were merely “pulled” by a secular police during the exercise of those functions he could never recover, unless indeed he were killed outright, in which case he might make a negotiable martyr. Unfortunately for the Patriarch, his injuries stopped far short of death, while the enemies of his faith instead of appearing as his persecutors appeared in the form of a detachment of Turkish troops to prevent his own people from making an end of him.

If the incident had ended here, it is plain that no course was open to the Patriarch except resignation, and a retirement to the utmost obscurity available. But it did not end here. The Sultan woke up to a sense that the dignity of the Sublime Porte as well as of the Armenian Patriarchate had suffered by the scrimmage in the cathedral and by the subsequent proceedings of the communicants in smashing the escutcheon of the Sultan which hung in front of the episcopal residence. His method of vindicating his outraged dignity has been more characteristic of an Irishman than of a Turk. He has informed the insulted and contused Patriarch that he “would be held responsible for any further outbreak that might occur”. That is to say, he has threatened to punish the Patriarch if any indignant or hilarious Armenians should take it into their heads to mob the Patriarch again. He has further required him publicly to thank the Turkish troops for rescuing him from his riotous parishioners. In effect, he requires the Patriarch to apologize for being mobbed once and to be held responsible if he is mobbed again. The Patriarch has presumably never read the “Bab Ballads” or he might reply to this demand, in the language of one of those lyrics:

“‘No’, said the worthy Bishop, ‘no,
That is a point to which, I trow,
Colonial Bishops cannot go'”.

Nevertheless, he has acted in the spirit here indicated. He has resigned his Patriarchate to avoid confessing that it was his own fault that he was mobbed by his own coreligionists and that he is thankful to the infidels who rescued him from their clutches.

Manifestly, the Patriarch is “out of a job” as a Patriarch, or even as a priest, and it behooves him to look out for some secluded and secular means of getting a living. Our sympathy for him ought to be unmixed, for it does not appear that he had done anything to deserve the hard fates which he met first at the hands of his own people and secondly at the hands of the Sultan, except to display in a high degree the pacific and conciliatory spirit appropriate to his office and to turn his cheeks in turn to the several starters by whom they have been severely smitten.

The course of the Sultan, on the other hand, does not commend itself to sympathy. The Patriarch got himself disrespected and hustled by his own people for the sole reason, that he was too easy with the Sultan, and did not call him to a sufficiently sharp account for the treatment of the Armenians by the Turks in the outlying provinces. By how much this line of inaction estranges the Patriarch from his people, by so much it ought to endear him to the Sultan, whereas, in fact, the wrath of the Sultan has been directed chiefly at the Patriarch, who has suffered for the Sultan’s sake, and not at the Christian laity, who have inflicted the suffering. There is no obvious explanation of the Sultan’s conduct, except to attribute it to an ungenerous antipathy to the under dog. It is safe, perhaps, to take sides against a man whose unpopularity is already attested by a coat of tar and feathers, but assuredly it is not chivalrous.

It is not even certain in the present case that it is safe. The persecution of the Patriarch is likely to call out an effectual remonstrance from Russia. The Armenians are not in communion with the Greek Church, but they profess to be and call themselves Christians, and their doctrines are scarcely distinguishable from those of the Greek Church, while they are perfectly sound, from the Russo-Greek point of view, upon the great filioque question. These things give Russia a warrant for interfering, which is quite good enough if, as is commonly supposed, Russia is anxious to interfere. It is given out that the Porte is preparing a diplomatic note explaining to the nation the riot of last Sunday. It ought to be an amusing paper.

Meanwhile the Sultan is possibly entitled to “a suspension of public judgment”, though the riot and its sequel will be apt to strengthen the judgment of Europe that what the case really requires is the suspension of the Sultan.

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