Homily in Holy Mass Commemorating Armenian Genocide

Over the last century humanity has made great progress in science and technology at a rate unseen in history. But the dark side of human nature remains and Pontius Pilate’s self-justifying question “what is truth?” resounds today in persons and nations trying to justify their own actions.
Today as we gather to remember and pray for the great tragedy of the Armenian nation, we realize that it was not an isolated incident and we pray for all who have suffered and lost their lives in various genocides and massacres over the past century. The Armenian genocide which began in 1915 was the first step in a series of deplorable events against various nations including the Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, Jews, Ukrainians, Poles and many other nations who suffered under the Soviet regime. The horrors seen in Cambodia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Burundi, Bosnia and unfortunately continue today in many other places throughout the world. The drama of Cain and Abel continues.
The culture of death has so overtaken us that it is no longer limited to crimes against the other, but has spread to attacks against oneself. The rate of suicide reaches dreadful proportion in many places including here in Lithuania, while the number of lives that are ended with the wombs of their own mother’s around the world are counted at 44 million per year. The numbers are mind-numbing and we must stop the insanity.
A series of calls from heaven, calling us to prayer and repentance, seeking to warn humanity of the advancing tragedies and to avert them, went unheeded. At the end of the 19th century, ten years before the Hamidian massacre, which foreshadowed the later genocide, Pope Leo XIII received a revelation of the horrors of the upcoming century. He and his successors called for prayer and employed various efforts to avoid the massacres, but with only limited success. Further revelations at Fatima and here in Vilnius, repeatedly called the world to prayer and conversion of heart, so as to avoid further suffering and bloodshed.
Today’s Gospel calls us once again to return to the path of peace. “Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors.” This prayer has continuously risen to the Lord for almost 2000 years throughout numerous persecutions. The Armenian nation, carrying the marks of Christ since 313, having suffered and witnessed the Lord’s victory, today continues to be a witness of the triumph of the Cross. Having a share in his Cross, we too share in His victory. That is why we pray today for God’s Mercy upon the whole world. We pray for our brothers and sisters who are today being martyred for their faith in Christ. We must remember the past and work so that the Mercy of God prevails and we do not continue in past errors.
Pope Francis in a ceremony two weeks ago commemorating the martyrdom of the Armenians and proclaiming Saint Gregory of Narek, a doctor of the Church, quoted St. Gregory, who beautifully presents today’s Gospel message in his teachings.
“I willingly blame myself with myriad accounts of all the incurable sins, from our first forefather through the end of his generations in all eternity, I charge myself with all these voluntarily” (Book of Lamentations, LXXII). How striking is his sense of universal solidarity! How small we feel before the greatness of his invocations, commented Pope Francis.
As we pray for those who have died in these tragedies, let us join in prayer in the words of St. Gregory of Narek: “Remember, [Lord,]… those of the human race who are our enemies as well, and for their benefit accord them pardon and mercy… Do not destroy those who persecute me, but reform them, root out the vile ways of this world, and plant the good in me and them” (ibid., LXXXIII).
As we profess the communion of the saints, let us ask for the intercession of the 1.5 million Armenian martyrs, who were canonized yesterday, that the insanity may be stopped and that humanity, appealing to the Mercy of God, may be restored to unity with Him and find the path to true Peace.
Archbishop Gintaras Grušas
Vilnius, 2015 April 24th