26 June 2016
At a visit to the Tzitzernakaberd Memorial Complex during a three day trip to Armenia, Pope Francis said that the memory of the persecution of Armenians should not be “watered down or forgotten.’’
At the complex which is a memorial to the 1.5 million Armenians killed in the early 20th century, he wrote in the memorial guest book: “I pray here with sorrow in my heart, that there might never more be tragedies like this one, that humanity might never forget, and might know how to overcome evil with goodness; may God grant to the beloved Armenian people and to the whole world peace and consolation,”
Francis celebrated Mass on Saturday in Gyumri and prayed on Friday at the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of the Holy at Etchmiadzin.
He also met on Friday with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, diplomats and other government officials.
In his speech at the meeting he referred to the massacre of Armenians a century ago as a “genocide’’.
He said: “Sadly, that tragedy, that genocide, was the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century, made possible by twisted racial, ideological or religious aims that darkened the minds of the tormentors even to the point of planning the annihilation of entire peoples”.
By using the word “genocide” he broke a century old taboo. And though there has been no remark from Turkish officials, this is bound to outrage them because, Turkey till today denies the Armenia Massacre as being genocide or ethnic cleansing, instead, attributing the deaths which occurred to the fog of World War I and the crumbling of the Ottoman Empire.
This is not the first time Francis has described the large-scale killings as genocide. Last year during a Mass marking the 100th anniversary of the deaths he said the events were “the first genocide of the 20th century.” His use of the word last year compelled the country to summon the Vatican ambassador to Ankara and recall its own ambassador to the Holy See for almost a year.
The Armenian Massacres, was the Ottoman government’s systematic extermination of up to 1.5 million of its minority Armenian subjects inside their historic homeland, which lies within the present-day Republic of Turkey.
Ottoman authorities rounded up, arrested, and deported 235 to 270 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders from Constantinople to Ankara, the majority of whom were eventually murdered.
The genocide was carried out during and after World War I and implemented in two phases: the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and subjection of army conscripts to forced labour, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian desert.