THE GREAT MARTYR AND BISHOP IGNATIUS MALOYAN
Our great Bishop "Shokr Allah Maloyan" was born in Mardine. He was raised by pious parents who were attached to their Christian faith, consistent in praying and fasting and of reputable character.
From a young age Maloyan was living in virtue, practicing Christian values, praying, fasting and attending mass at all occasions. Eventually his conduct became an example to refer to by all Christian families.
When his Excellency Bishop Melkone Nazarian was assured of Maloyan's conduct, qualities, piety and readiness to answer the call of priesthood, he sent him to Bzommar convent in Lebanon in 1883; there Maloyan adopted the Virgin Mary as his Mother and followed Her elevated example. After 5 years in the convent he became ill and had to return home. Three years later he went back to the convent where he pursued his studies and was ordained priest on the 6th of August 1896. He took the name of Saint Ignatius and followed the steps of this great Saint by his life and martyrdom. Ignatius Maloyan stayed for a year and a half in Bzommar convent preaching to those who were studying to become priests. He was sent then to Egypt where he served in Cairo and Alexandria from 1897 to 1903.
The Patriarch Paul Sabaghian called him to Istanbul and appointed him as his secretary. His Beatitude the Patriarch loved him dearly for his high spiritual qualities and promoted him to Vartabed rank (Parish Priest). Maloyan returned again to Egypt and served there till 1910. Ignatius Maloyan was then appointed to serve in Mardine's parish, which was managed by the bishop Hovsep Goulian. After the Bishop sought from the Apostolic See exemptions from his duties due to his old age; Maloyan was entrusted with the managing of the Church due to the great spiritual and temporal efforts spent in the service of his parishioners.
Vartabed Maloyan was invited to participate in the congregation's Synod, the one that is famous in the history of the Armenian Catholic church and conducted in Rome. He was assigned as secretary and registrar of the sessions. During this Synod Maloyan was elected as Bishop of Mardine's parish and the surrounding villages.
He received his Episcopal ordination from the patriarch Paul Terzian on the 22nd of October 1911. As soon as he arrived to Mardine, towards the end of 1912, he said in his first speech there: "I came to my country to serve my people and will give them my last drop of blood."
His Excellency was mastering many languages: French, English, Italian, Armenian, Arabic and Turkish. In 1913 he visited all his parishioners who were spread in neighbouring villages like Tal Arman and its Deir, Wayranshahr, Nessibian, Dabarka, El Soor and Torabin sympathising with their social, materialistic and spiritual problems and giving of himself for their salvation and their care.
Tribulations and massacres of the Armenian people went on in all parts of the Ottoman country until they reached Deir Bakr and Mardine led by Rachid the Governor of Deir Bakr, Haj Zaki El Lagawy, Khalil Adib, Badri El Motassaref, Mamdooh and Towfik Bek who were Rashid's Companions and Aaron the Lieutenant. Maloyan had no doubts that the Armenian congregation in Mardine will all perish. He wrote his will address his parishioners and gave it to his Excellency Bishop Gabriel Tebouni entrusting him with his parishioners and their spiritual needs.
The will was like a prophecy where every word of it came true. He said in his will "I urge you first of all to strengthen your faith and trust in the Holy Church which goes back to the teaching received from St Peter whom Jesus Christ chose to be the rock on which He built His Holy Church and made from the Apostles' and Martyrs blood it's foundation; from where could we be granted this great gift where our blood, we sinners, become worthy to be mixed with the blood of those Holy Saints." Maloyan expressed also his loyalty to the Ottoman government, his respect of its laws and encouraged his faithful to obey and abide by the country's orders. He concluded by saying: "My dear children I entrust you in God and ask you to pray for me so that He may grant me the strength and courage, till the shedding of my blood, so I would spend this perishable time in His grace and love."
The prophecies that Bishop Ignatius Maloyan made started to be fulfilled by the cancellation of the privileges bestowed
upon him as a religious leader as well as of the two distinguished decorations that he had received from the government.
All Christians were dismissed from the army, police force and government departments and they were ordered to surrender any arms in their possession or they will be killed. Maloyan farewelled all the Catholic Bishops as well as Bishop Gabriel Tebouni and entrusted him again with the matters of the Armenian community.
On the afternoon of Holy Thursday 3rd April 1915, Mamdooh, his two assistants and the lieutenant Aaron went to Mardine where every thing was made ready for them. As soon as they arrived they arrested his Excellency the Bishop Ignatius Maloyan, father Paul Sanyoor his secretary and 27 of the Armenians leaders. They ordered all Christians in the city not to leave their home and this was obeyed.
The soldiers gathered 662 elevated people of different congregations, arrested another 200 and imprisoned them all. A mock trial was held where the bishop Maloyan was falsely accused of possessing guns, bombs and explosives. After his Excellency rebuffed them and proved them wrong one of them said to him "Become Muslim and declare it or death will be your fate." The hero bishop answered him "Muslim? There is no way I would reject my religion and my Saviour. I have been brought up in the Holy Catholic Church, assimilated the base of its truthful teachings from a young age and became proficient in its undisputable facts until I unworthily become one of its pastors. I consider the shed of my blood for my faith to be the sweetest thing to my heart because I know for sure that if I get tortured for the love of the One who died for me I would become one of the happiest blessed people and I will see my Lord and my God in heaven. You can only beat me and cut me into pieces but I will never deny my religion." Those present there became furious and started screaming: "Do you disdain our religion?" One of them slapped him and said, "I swear to God to torture you and give you a violent death." They beat him savagely to make of him an example for others and then extracted his toenails. He was repeating during the torture "God strengthen me. Jesus of Nazareth have mercy on me your slave." He then asked to receive the last absolution. It was given to him by Father Paul Kesparian.
On April 11th his Excellency the Bishop, the priests and 417 people were driven to their unavoidable death. Several times on the way the soldiers separated some of them and slayed them. When they arrived near Zorgovan Citadel the bishop had no more doubts about the ill intentions of Mamdouch and his companions and that the ones who were separated from them were killed so he said to Mamdouch, "Liar, you'll no longer be able to hide your bargains so give me some time with my children, then do what you want." Mamdouch ordered his soldiers to stay away from them.
All the believers knelt down and prayed then Bishop Maloyan gathered what was left of bread with them, blessed and broke it and gave them the last absolution and the Holy Communion. The believers rejoiced and were filled with grace. A cloud covered them and a beautiful aroma spread in the place. The soldiers admitted that they had never witnessed something like this before. The Bishop said to Mamdouch, "Do now what you want."
The soldiers killed all the Christians until only Bishop Maloyan was left. Mamdouch addressed him saying, "I want to accomplish my religious duty before killing you and that's offering you the Islam or death." Maloyan answered him, "It's strange that you ask me this again although I told you before that I would live and die loyal to my faith and can only boast about my Lord's noble cross." Enraged, Mamdouch shot him. His Excellency passed away while saying, "Have mercy on me O Lord, Jesus in Your hands I entrust my soul."
In your Martyrdom dear hero we have many lessons that we have to learn. The first one is how to be proud of our religion and hold onto it and how to be ready to sacrifice ourselves when the need comes. We also learn not to give this perishable life any consideration, trusting that our life is in the Eternal Life and our happiness is with the Saints while being embraced by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and in the sight of our Lord and Saviour Jesus-Christ.
(Author: Abdel Ahad Madfuni Translation: Christine Bedros)
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