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The Armenian Catholics in Russia
 
In 1630 in Lvov the Armenian Archbishop of Lvov, Nicholas Torosowicz united his church with the See of Rome. He received the title of Metropolitan of the Armenian Catholics of Poland, Moldavia, and Walachia. He and his successors conducted a series of reforms in their church. After the unification of part of the Ukrainian lands with the Russia there were now quite a number of Armenian Catholics in the Russian Empire. A separate eparchy was created for them, centered at Mogilev-Podolsk. It was headed by the bishop Joseph Krishtofovich, who was consecrated by the Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Lvov. In the archival materials of the time mention is made of Armenian Catholic parishes in Crimea, Odessa, and Nikolaev, as well as on the territory of today-s Russian Federation, in Astrakhan, Mozdok, and Kizlyar. It is worth mentioning that the Catholic parish in Astrakhan was founded first specifically as Armenian Catholic, and it was for these Armenian Catholics that the church- which exists up to today- was built. After the death of Bishop Krishtofovich the administration of the eparchies was conducted by priest-administrators, after 1818, Fr. Varterisowicz, later Fr. N. Moshoro. It is known that this eparchy existed precisely up to 1828. At this period the archival documents show that there was a group of Armenian Catholics in Moscow, who were ministered to by a priest.

When the Roman Catholic Eparchy of Tiraspol was founded in 1848, with its center at Saratov, the Armenian Catholic parishes on Russian territory were made subject to it. There was an Armenian Catholic Deanery in the eparchy, with parishes in the Transcaucasus and in the Crimea.

It is worth noting that in 1850 Pope Pius IX established an Armenian Catholic eparchy in Artvin, which was to minister to Armenian Catholic faithful of the Ottoman Empire and of Russia. In 1878 Russia occupied the entire territory of this eparchy, and by decision of the authorities subjected its parishes to the Latin eparchy of Tiraspol. However this state of affairs was not recognized by Rome. In 1912 the fact that the Armenian Catholics of Russia ware temporarily subjected to the Tiraspol Eparchy was recognized, but the Artvin Eparchy continued to exist formally, from the point of view of canon law, up to 1972.

After the October Revolution an Apostolic Administration for the Armenian Catholics of Soviet Russia was established. There were Armenian Catholics on the territory of Russia itself, in the Crimean, Moscow (ministered to by a priest) and, apparently, in Krasnodar and other cities. A yearbook of this administration had already appeared in 1916, with a list of parishes, including parishes in the Crimea (for a long time after the revolution the Crimea was considered Russian, not Ukrainian, territory). The Armenian Catholic parishes in the Crimea continued to operate up to the thirties. It should be noted that this apostolic administration was canonically conceived as part of the Artvin Eparchy, although it was ascribed to the Roman Catholic Tiraspol Eparchy in the Papal Annuary for 1922. In 1928 there was supposed to occur an episcopal consecration of Monsignor Akop Bagaradjan, Apostolic Administrator of Tbilisi, although this never took place. Fr. Akop Bagaradjan was arrested in Tbilisi in 1930, sent to prison first in Moscow, then to the Solovki camp. He died in February of 1936 in the far north of Russia. His vicar was Fr. Dionisy Kalatozov, who died soon thereafter of an illness. The next Apostolic Administrator, Fr. Karapet Dirlugian, who had ministered to the Armenian Catholics of Moscow since 1916, was pastor in Krasnodar in 1931 at the time of his appointment. In 1936 he was arrested and sent to the Kirov region.

Many others of the Armenian Catholic priests and faithful suffered in Russia. Thus in 1937 in Sondomokh, in Karelia, Fr. Stephen Eroyan, who had been arrested in Armenia and confined at the Solovki camp was shot. During an interrogation in 1932 at Solvki he had unswervingly held to his confession of faith in the Catholic Church. When in 1940 the Armenian Catholic Metroplitanate of Lvov fell under Soviet rule about half of the faithful, around 2,500 people, were sent to Siberia.

For a long time Russian Armenian Catholics, like almost all the Catholics of the Latin Rite, were deprived of the right to their church life and to have their own pastors. With the rebirth of the Church in Russia a few of them began attending Latin Catholic parishes, hoping that later priests of their own Church would appear in Russia. Groups of Armenian Catholics live in Moscow, Pskov, Rostov on the Don, Krasnodar and the surrounding region, Sochi, and other cities of Russia. Only recently for the first time in all these past many years the first Armenian Catholic pastor was able to come. With enormous difficulty he is attempting to set up a church life for the Armenian Catholic community of Moscow.

As is apparent from what has been said, there have practically always been Armenian Catholics living in Russia and, like other Christians, they suffered persecution for their faith in the Soviet period. At the time of the present study research is being conducted with an eye to bring new facts to light, and earlier unknown details about the history of these Armenian Catholics in Russia.

Translated from Russian by Prof. Joseph Lake, OPL

 

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