Chronology of Catholic Dioceses:Notes on the Armenian Catholic Eparchy of Artvin

The Armenian Catholic Diocese of Artvin (Artuinensis Armenorum) was established in 1850 by Pius IX for the Catholic Armenians in that part of the Ottoman Empire and in neighbouring southern Russia, and was the first suffragan to the Metropolitan of Constantinople until 1867, afterwards directly subject to the Armenian-Catholic Patriarch of Cilicia, whose see was at Constantinople from 1867. The first Bishop was Timotheus Astorgi (1850-58), who was succeeded by Antonius Halagi (1859) and Joannes Baptista Zaccharian (1878). In 1878, Russia annexed the entire territory of this diocese and forcibly united it with Tiraspol. Thus, czarist opposition to Eastern-rite Catholicism resulted in the abandonment of the Artvin diocese within 40 years of its existence.

This disposition was not accepted by the Holy See ot the Armenian Catholic Church. During the entire period Russia ruled the Artvin area, it prevented the appointment of a bishop and and tried to cause the Catholic Armenians to renounce their Catholic faith.

The Catholics of the Latin Rite in the diocese of Artvin were subject to the regular jurisdiction of the Bishop of Tiraspol, whose see was in Saratov. In 1912 the Armenian Catholics in the Empire were placed under the Latin bishop of Tiraspol, who resided in distant Saratov.

After the Communist Revolution in Russia, extraordinary structures were attempted to secure some kind of pastoral care for the Catholics. Of the number and state of the Armenian Catholics in Russian territory little certain was available. But an Apostolic Administrator with residence at Tiflis was appointed for them in 1921. The Annuarios Pontificio from the 1920s make it clear that he was considered part of the (vacant) see of Artvin, in spite of the fact that the apostolic administrature (formally erected in 1926) was listed under Tiraspol. The position is first listed in the Annuario Pontificio 1922.

The Apostolic Administrator was not a bishop, the Annuario Pontificio 1933 states that he was incarcerated in April 1930, and they listed another priest as vicar ad interim. The AP 1937 no longer listed the administrator; the vicar continued to be listed until the AP 1963. But he must have died long before that. In 1972, the Armenian Catholic of Artvin was formally suppressed (almost 100 years after czarist Russia had de facto squashed it).

-CT (with information from Mr. James A. Derrick, and the sources CE and Robertson 1995)

av Webmaster publisert 08.09.2004, sist endret 08.09.2004 - 12:11