Pope Francis Armenia

Pope Francis Stirs Controversy over Armenian Genocide

Pope Francis referred to the killings in the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 1900’s as a “genocide” stirring controversy among many in Turkey.

Speaking on Sunday at a St. Peter’s Basilica Mass to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide the Pontiff said “In the past century, our human family has lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies.” He continued, “The first [tragedy], which is widely considered ‘the first genocide of the 20th century,’ struck your own Armenian people.

Francis made the statement referring to a declaration made in 2001 by Pope John Paul II and Catholicos Karekin II, the Supreme Head of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Though quoting directly from the 2001 declaration, the Pope’s mention of the term ‘genocide’ angered many in Turkey.

This seemingly harmless speech made by the Pope has heightened fears over a possible diplomatic row between the Vatican and the nation of Turkey, as the country’s Ambassador to the Vatican, who had never been summoned home before, was recalled for “consultations“.

However, Kenan Gursoy, a former ambassador of Turkey to the Vatican, calmed fears of a possible diplomatic fallout, saying that while it might be the first time that his country’s ambassador to the Vatican has been recalled, it does not spell trouble. “This does not mean that our diplomatic ties with the Vatican are over,” Gursoy said. “Since this is a situation that we do not approve of, as a first reaction, (the ambassador) is summoned to get consultation,” he added. Gursoy went ahead to add that the Pope’s use of the word “genocide” was “a one-sided evaluation.”

Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, on the other hand took to Twitter to voice his displeasure over the Pope’s comment.

“Religious offices are not places through which hatred and animosity are fueled by unfounded allegations,” Cavusoglu tweeted, calling Francis’ use of the word “unacceptable” and “out of touch with both historical facts and legal basis.”

Similarly, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan cautioned Pope Francis to not make anti-Islamic statements commenting, “We expect religious leaders to call for peace and to stay away from islamophobic and anti-islamic attitudes that prevail in Europe.”

Contrary to Turkey’s angry reaction to the Pope’s “genocide speech,” Armenians around the world seem to appreciate the Pope’s support, with Armenian Foreign Minister rebuking Turkey over its unfounded anger. “We are in a situation in which Turkey speaks a different language from the rest of the international community and it seems that it doesn’t understand that it is speaking a different language,” said Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian.

During these past days there have been several international organizations that adopt resolutions or issue statements that recognize the Armenian genocide and that appeal to Turkey to make this step. The Pope’s statement are [sic] in this context of universal value. When Turkey is able to understand this, it will be able to understand what the International community and big personalities [‘leaders’] are saying,” Nalbandian added.

The Turks have been long accused by the Armenian people of carrying out a well planned massacre on its people back in 1915, during the final reign of the Ottoman Empire, calling on world bodies to officially label the killings a genocide. Turkey continues to officially deny any occurrence of genocide, claiming that what happened was an intercommunal violence that lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of Armenian Christians and Turkish Muslims as well.


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