No. 776.
Mr. Goodenow to Mr. Fish

No. 14.]

Sir: As the religious question at issue between the “Hassounists” and “Anti-Hassounists” hasled to a great deal of angry discussion and excitement, at one time threatening forcible resistance to the measures of the government, some account of the origin and progress of the controversy may not be wholly without interest.

In the year 1870 the patriarch of the Roman Catholic Armenians, Mon sign ore Hassoun, resorted to Rome in order to take part in the deliberations of the general council in regard to the infallibility of the Pope.

Upon that occasion he declared very distinctly that, under the circumstances then existing, he thought it not only inexpedient, but even dangerous, to proclaim the dogma of the infallibility of the Pope in the Eastern Catholic Church. He maintained at the same time that the introduction of the Latin ritual demanded by the Pope would cause a secession in the church. He also declined the proposal to introduce into the Armenian church the same hierarchical system that governed the Latin church.

But no sooner was the dogma of infallibility proclaimed than Mon-signore Hassoun changed his opinion and became the blindly devoted instrument of the Papal government. On his return to Constantinople, he immediately began to attack the self-government of the Armenian church. He endeavored to abolish two privileges to which the Armenians clung with extraordinary tenacity, and without which the Armenian Catholic Church would have sunk to the slavish level of the rest of the Catholic Church.

One of these privileges was the right of the Armenian community to elect its patriarch, subject to the approval of the Pope. Hassoun tried to prevail upon his community to consent that the Pope should thenceforward name the patriarch. The second point was the management of the church-property by the lay portion of the community as well as by the clergy. Hassoun attempted to deprive the lay portion of their share in this administration.

This attempt was vigorously opposed by the community, and, as Hassoun refused to renounce his schemes, a great part of the Armenians declared themselves independent, and formed a new community, designated as “anti-Hassounists,” while the adherents of the Pope and of Hassoun were called “Hassounists.” The Turkish government recognized the new community, and authorized it to elect a patriarch. Monsignore [Page 1157] Hassoun did not shrink from asking French assistance and organizing a conspiracy against the government. But the Turkish government showed firmness and energy, and banished him from Turkey. Hassoun fled to Rome, where he still lives, and directs the “Hassounist” party in Turkey.

The Pope sent the cardinal Monsignore Franchi as a nuncio to Constantinople to regulate the relations between the Turkish government and the Catholic church. But, although the Turkish government provided for his expenses in Constantinople for more than a year, he could obtain but little more than the formal recognition of the Hassounists as Roman Catholics.

Since that time the anti-Hassounist party has become more numerous, and now claims a great majority of the churches. The French government did its best to induce the Turkish government not only to comply with this request of the Hassounists, but also to withdraw from the anti-Hassounists every right of an independent church. The German minister, seeing that his French colleague interfered with the question, neglected no effort to counterbalance his influence, and kept the former grand vizier in a continual state of vacillation. The financial question, and the hope of obtaining money through the mediation of the French government, kept the grand vizier on the side of the French ambassador, while the entire independence of the Roman Catholic denomination of the Turkish Empire tempted him to yield to the counsels of the German minister. At last Count de Vogüé, the French ambassador, complained to the Sultan personally, and this complaint was one reason of the late grand vizier’s (Mehmed Euchdi Pasha’s) fall.

His successor, Hussein Avni Pasha, far more energetic and decided upon the question of the government supremacy, convoked a commission of ail Christain subjects of the Porte, which decided that the Hassounists were in the wrong. In consequence of this decision, orders were given to the Hassounists to deliver a great many churches, especially the patriarchial church of the Saviour, at Constantinople to the anti-Hassounists. The Hassounist community was determined to oppose the order, but as they saw that the grand vizier was decided to execute it by force, if necessary, they resolved to present a petition to the grand vizier. They did so. In their memorial, signed by 1,800 Armenian Catholics, after protesting against the designation “Hassounists,” as this name would signify that they form a sect the head of which is Monsignore Hassoun, they declined in substance to give up to the anti-Hassounist or dissident Catholics the Armenian Catholic patriarchial church of Saint Saviour, in Galata, as enjoined by the government. The memorialists stated that, while their religion teaches them obedience to the powers that be, it forbids them at the same time to give up their churches and sacred property to dissidents and schismatics. They respectfully, but firmly, decline therefore to give up the church of their own free will, and left the responsibility of ulterior measures upon the government. The members of the deputation having verbally enforced the prayer of the memorial, the grand vizier urged upon them to endeavor to persuade their co-religionists to defer to the decree of the government and to give up the church, but the deputation assured his highness that it would be fruitless for them to make any such attempt. For several days the greatest excitement, and even fear, that violent measures might be resorted to on either side prevailed, the churches in dispute being occupied by night and day by large numbers of Hassounists, well armed, who declared their determination not to surrender their churches.

The government then undertook to effect a compromise, by ordering that the churches should be given up to the government, but the Hassounists [Page 1158] consented to this only on the condition that they should remain in the custody of the government, and not be delivered over to either of the contending parties.

The principal church is now in the possession of the police.

The Porte, it is said, has determined upon convoking a conference of six leading members of the non-dissident or Hassounist Catholics and six leading members of the dissident or anti-Hassounist Catholics, to see if there be any possibility of arriving at a satisfactory solution of the vexed questions between them.

I have, &c,