Pope Francis denounces Armenian “genocide” in a visit to Yerevan.

Pope Francis condemned the 1915 mass killings where thousands of Armenians were killed by Turks. He used the word “genocide” to describe this scarring event in Armenian history. This move has the potential of straining relations between the Vatican and Turkey. The Pope departed from his usual speech when he said that the incident was the first of a number of unwanted catastrophes of the 20th century.

Pope Francis arrived in Yerevan, the Armenian capital on June 24, and spent the subsequent three days in the landlocked nation whose history is made of conquests of its land by other and more powerful empires. These people have also suffered much more for Christian religion. The pontiff's visit will underline the robust ecumenical ties existing between majority Orthodox and the much smaller Catholic Christian population. It is also expected to promote reconciliation within a region which is in the middle of Europe, Russia and the Middle East.

Pope Francis has previous links with the Armenian community even prior to him becoming the Pope. In Argentina, the Pope's native country, he has close ties with the Armenian community. The members of the community have previously escaped from massacres and persecution.

There was no quick reaction from Turkey. This is in contrast with the country's reaction after a similar statement made in 2015 when Pope Francis, during a mass at St. Peter's Basilica, said that the event should be considered as the earliest genocide in 20th century. Ankara recalled its ambassador stationed in Vatican as a protest. Relations continue to be cold as the Catholic Church remains preoccupied with the problems faced by Christians in the Middle East. Turkey is an important player in this part of the world.

Ankara agrees that a number of Armenians had died during the ethnic clashes and also during the deportation process which took place from 1915 to 1917. The advent of World War I puts the number at 300,000 lives lost. Armenia puts the number at 1.5 million and calls the event a genocide.

Things are not going well for Turkey, even as Germany agreed with Armenia and decided to call such a killing as genocide. For the Pope, this trip is latest in a number of visits he has made to countries located in the edge of Europe where the Catholics make up a minority of the populace. He has also been to Bosnia and Albania.

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