Newspaper article International New York Times

Pope Refers to Armenian Slaughter as 'Genocide' ; Comments during Mass to Mark 1915 Anniversary Put Turkey on Defensive

Newspaper article International New York Times

Pope Refers to Armenian Slaughter as 'Genocide' ; Comments during Mass to Mark 1915 Anniversary Put Turkey on Defensive

Article excerpt

Francis's comments are likely to ignite a diplomatic confrontation with Turkey, which quickly summoned the Vatican's ambassador to condemn the pontiff's remarks.

Pope Francis on Sunday described the World War I-era slaughter of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks as the first genocide of the 20th century, igniting a diplomatic confrontation with Turkey, which quickly summoned the Vatican's ambassador to condemn the pontiff's remarks.

Francis, who made the comments at a Mass for the 100th anniversary of the start of the mass killings, and in a later message to all Armenians, repeated his stance that the seemingly piecemeal global violence of the 21st century actually represented a "third world war." He also described his frustration with what he considers global indifference toward the persecution and killing of Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere, especially by militants with the Islamic State.

"Today, too, we are experiencing a sort of genocide created by general and collective indifference," Francis said.

Turkey has long denied accusations of genocide and argues that a large number of Turks were also killed during and after World War I, when Armenians sided with Russian and Western forces in hopes of claiming an independent homeland in eastern Turkey as the Ottoman Empire was dying.

In broaching the term genocide, Francis quoted from a 2001 declaration by Pope John Paul II and Catholicos Karekin II, the Armenian Apostolic Church's supreme patriarch, in which the two leaders called the Armenian slaughter a campaign of extermination that was "generally referred to as the first genocide of the twentieth century."

But Vatican diplomats have been deliberately prudent in avoiding the inflammatory term, so in using it during the Mass on Sunday, before an audience that included the Armenian president, Serzh Sargsyan, Francis clearly intended to provoke a response. He equated the fate of the Armenians with the genocides orchestrated by the Nazis and the Soviets under Stalin, while also condemning "other mass killings, like those in Cambodia, Rwanda, Burundi and Bosnia."

"It seems that humanity is incapable of putting a halt to the shedding of innocent blood," he said. "It seems that the human family has refused to learn from its mistakes caused by the law of terror, so that today, too, there are those who attempt to eliminate others with the help of a few, and with the complicit silence of others who simply stand by."

Francis said it was a duty of everyone not to forget the "senseless slaughter" of the estimated 1.5 million Armenians killed by the Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1923. "Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it," the pope added.

Many Armenians have long demanded that Turkey acknowledge that about 1.5 million of their forebears were killed in a systematic genocide. …

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