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

13 Apr 2015 – By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, Pope Francis said atrocities from the past have to be recognized — not hidden or denied — for true reconciliation and healing to come to the world.

However, Turkey’s top government officials criticized the pope’s use of the term “genocide” — citing a 2001 joint statement by St. John Paul II and the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church — in reference to the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians during their forced evacuation by Ottoman Turks in 1915-18.

Turkey rejects the accusation of genocide, and the government called its ambassador to the Holy See back to Turkey “for consultations” on 12 April, the same day Pope Francis made his statement. The government also summoned Archbishop Antonio Lucibello, nuncio to Turkey, to lodge a complaint.

Before concelebrating the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis greeted the many Armenian faithful who were present, including Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.

The pope lamented the continued forced expulsions and atrocious killings of Christians in the world saying, “Today, too, we are experiencing a kind of genocide created by general and collective indifference” and “complicit silence.”

Humanity has lived through “three massive and unprecedented tragedies the past century: the first, which is generally considered ‘the first genocide of the 20th century,’“ struck the Armenian people, he said, quoting a joint declaration signed in 2001 by St. John Paul and Catholicos Karekin II of Etchmiadzin, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

The other two 20th-century tragedies were those “perpetrated by Nazism and Stalinism,” while more recently “other mass exterminations” have been seen in Cambodia, Rwanda, Burundi and Bosnia, Pope Francis said.

“It seems that the human family refuses to learn from its mistakes caused by the law of terror, so that there are still today those who try to eliminate their own kind with the help of some and with the complicit silence of others who act as bystanders,” he said.

Addressing Armenian Christians, the pope said that recalling “that tragic event, that immense and senseless slaughter, which your forebears cruelly endured,” was necessary and “indeed a duty” to honor their memory “because wherever memory does not exist, it means that evil still keeps the wound open.”

“Concealing or denying evil is like letting a wound keep bleeding without treating it,” he said.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the pope used “inappropriate” and “one-sided” language by describing the deaths of Armenians during World War I as genocide.

He said, “Only highlighting one side’s suffering during wartime and discriminating the others’ pain is not appropriate for the pope,” adding that it would fuel racism and anti-Turkey sentiments in Europe.





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