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Term ‘Genocide’ Angers Turkey, While Pope Says Memory Leads to Healing

Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a written statement that Pope Francis’ references to events from 1915 as genocide “contradict historical and legal facts” and it claimed the Mass was “instrumentalized for political aims.”

Turkey says the deaths were due largely to disease and famine during the “relocation process” and that both sides suffered many casualties during the war.

Meanwhile, Armenian Catholic Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX, who concelebrated the Mass with Pope Francis, said the pope’s remarks were not a provocation against Turkey or Muslims, nor was the pope taking sides.

“His vision embraces the world; he expresses the sense of humanity that we all have to share” as caring for one another, he told the Vatican’s Fides news agency.

The pope is concerned “about all the oppressed, the poor, the sick of every nation and religion. He has never separated the sufferings of Christians from the sufferings of others, as all of his pronouncements about the conflict bathing the Middle East in blood have shown,” the patriarch said.

“Remembering and condemning the horrors of the past can serve as an impediment to those things happening again,” he added.

At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis also handed a signed written message to the Armenian Catholic and Orthodox leaders and to President Sargsyan asking that “the path of reconciliation between the Armenian and Turkish people” be taken up again. It also prayed that peace would come to the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave in Azerbaijan where tensions have been high since ethnic Armenian residents proclaimed their independence from Azerbaijan after a conflict in the early 1990’s.

“Despite conflicts and tensions,” Pope Francis wrote, the people of Armenia, Turkey and Nagorno-Karabakh “have lived long periods of peaceful coexistence and, even in the whirlwind of violence, they have experienced instances of solidarity and mutual help.”

Living in this spirit of harmony is the only way sacrifice will “become the seeds of justice and peace” and younger generations will have a better future, the pope wrote.

“May this sorrowful anniversary become for everyone an occasion for humble and sincere reflection, and for every heart to be open to forgiveness, which is the source of peace and renewed hope,” the pope’s message said.

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Tags: Pope Francis Turkey Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Catholic Church