Blessed Choukrallah Maloyan, 1869 – 1915
Ignatius Maloyan (born Shoukr Allah), son of Malkoun and Farida Maloyan, was born in Mardin, Turkey, in April 1869. He was the fourth son of eight children (one girl and seven boys). At the age of 14, he was sent to the convent of Bzommar-Lebanon after his parish priest had noticed in him signs of a priestly vocation.
After five years in Bzommar seminary, Ignatius left Bzommar and returned to Mardin to be among his family due to his frail health and the life of abstinence he was leading. He stayed there for three years, recovered his health and then went back to Bzommar. Shoukr Allah pursued his higher studies and set for minor orders. In 1896, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, he was ordained priest in the church of Bzommar convent and became a member of the Bzommar congregation of priests, taking the name Ignatius after the famous martyr of Antioch.
During the years 1897-1910, Father Ignatius was appointed as parish priest in Alexandria and Cairo, where his good reputation was wide spread.
His Beatitude Patriarch Boghos Bedros XII made him his assistant in Istanbul, in 1904, but due to an eye ailment and difficulty in breathing, he returned to Egypt and stayed there till 1910.
The Diocese of Mardin was in a state of anarchy, so Patriarch Sabbaghian sent Fr Ignatius Maloyan to restore order.
On 22 October 1911, the Bishops’ Synod assembled in Rome elected Fr Ignatius Archbishop of Mardin. He took over his new assignment and planned on renewing the declining diocese, encouraging, especially, devotion to the Sacred Heart.
All this didn’t stop him from enriching his personal spiritual life, with the celebration of daily Mass, meditations and visits to the Blessed Sacrament. He had a particular devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and worked diligently to spread it among his congregation in every parish. The Lord blessed this devotion of Bishop Ignatius and his benevolence arranged for his martyrdom in June on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The month of May, dedicated to Mary, also held a great place in the heart of Bishop Ignatius, who always took every opportunity to talk about the virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary, encouraging his people to love their Heavenly Mother.
During the First World War, the Turkish government decided to massacre the Armenian nation. On 30 April 1915, Turkish soldiers surrounded the residence of the Armenian Catholic Bishop and the church in Mardin with the charge that they were concealing arms.
At the beginning of May, the Bishop gathered his priests and informed them of the dangerous situation. On 3 June 1915, Turkish soldiers dragged Bishop Maloyan in chains to court with 27 other Armenian Catholic figures. The next day, 25 priests and 862 believers were taken prisoner. During the trial, the chief of police, Mamdooh Bek, asked the Bishop to convert to Islam. The Bishop answered that he would never betray Christ and His Church. The Good Shepherd told him that he was ready to suffer all kinds of ill-treatment and even death and that in this will be his happiness.
Mamdooh Bek hit him on the head with the butt of his pistol and ordered him to be put in jail. The soldiers chained his feet and hands, threw him on the ground and hit him mercilessly. With each blow, the Bishop was heard saying “Oh Lord, have mercy on me, oh Lord, give me strength”, and asked the priests present for absolution. With that, the soldiers went back to hitting him and they tore out his nails.
On 9 June, his mother visited him and wept at his condition. But the valiant Bishop encouraged her. The next day, the soldiers gathered 440 Armenians and formed three convoys of Armenians and some other Christians.
The soldiers, along with the convoys, took the desert route: a short time later, they arrived at a deserted place, they separated the elderly and killed them. Six hours later, they arrived at a place called “Chikhan”. Mamdooh Bek gave the order to stop, and took out a decree and read it to all present: “The government has granted you many blessings: Freedom, equality, brotherhood, highranking jobs … in return you betrayed the nation. Consequently you have been condemned to death, but he who wishes to convert to Islam will be released and will return safely to Mardin, if not, after one hour, the death penalty will be executed. Get ready and say your last prayers”.
Bishop Maloyan answered on behalf of all the believers “not for a day, did we betray the Turkish Government, not in the past nor at the present. But if you want us to betray our loyalty to the Christian faith, this will never be” and all cried: “Never, never”. Maloyan went on to say “we will die, yes, we will all die for Christ”.
The Bishop encouraged his parishioners to remain firm in their faith. Then all knelt with him. He prayed to God that they accept martyrdom with patience and courage. The priests granted general absolution. The Bishop took out a piece of bread, blessed it, recited the words of the Eucharist and gave it to his priests to distribute among the people.
One of the soldiers, an eye witness, recounted this scene; “at that hour, I saw a cloud covering the prisoners and from all came a perfumed scent. There was a look of joy and serenity on their faces”, since they were all going to die out of love for Jesus. After a two-hour walk, hungry, naked and in chains, the soldiers attacked the prisoners and killed them before the Bishop’s eyes. After the massacre of the two convoys, it was Bishop Maloyan’s turn.
Mamdooh Bek then asked Maloyan again to convert to Islam. The soldier of Christ answered: “I’ve told you I shall live and die for the sake of my faith and religion. I take pride in the Cross of my God and Lord”. Mamdooh got very angry, he drew his pistol and shot Maloyan. Before he released his last breath he cried aloud: “My God, have mercy on me; Into your hands I commend my spirit”. Mamdooh Bek then sent soldiers to Diyarbakir asking specialists to sign a death certificate stating that Bishop Maloyan had died of a heart attack en route!
The Kurds who witnessed and executed the killing said: “we have never witnessed such strong faith”.
It was 11 June, Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 1915.