Sunday, 12 April 2015

Pope calls Armenian slaughter '1st genocide of 20th century' By NICOLE WINFIELD Associated Press

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Francis on Sunday honored the 100th 
anniversary of the slaughter of Armenians by calling it "the first 
genocide of the 20th century," a politically explosive declaration that 
will certainly anger Turkey. 

Francis, who has close ties to the Armenian community from his days in 
Argentina, defended his pronouncement by saying it was his duty to honor 
the memory of the innocent men, women, children, priests and bishops who 
were "senselessly" murdered by Ottoman Turks. 

"Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding 
without bandaging it," he said at the start of a Mass Sunday in the 
Armenian Catholic rite in St. Peter's Basilica honoring the centenary. 

Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by 
Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, an event widely viewed by 
genocide scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. 

Turkey, however, refuses to call it a genocide and has insisted that 
the toll has been inflated, and that those killed were victims of civil 
war and unrest. 

Turkey's embassy to the Holy See canceled a planned news conference for 
Sunday , presumably after learning that the pope would utter the word 
"genocide" over its objections. 

Several European countries recognize the massacres as genocide, though 
Italy and the United States, for example, have avoided using the term 
officially given the importance they place on Turkey as an ally. 

Francis is not the first pope to call the massacre a genocide. In his 
remarks, Francis cited a 2001 declaration signed by St. John Paul II and 
the Armenian church leader, Karenkin II, which called it as the first 
genocide of the 20th century. 

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, whose ties with Turkey and the Muslim world 
were initially strained, avoided the "g-word." 

Francis said the Armenian killings were the first of three "massive and 
unprecedented" genocides that was followed by the Holocaust and 
Stalinism. He said others had followed, including in Cambodia, Rwanda, 
Burundi and Bosnia. 

"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," he said. 

Francis has frequently denounced the "complicit silence" of the world 
community in the face of the modern day slaughter of Christians and 
other religious minorities by Islamic extremists. And while he was 
archbishop of Buenos Aires, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio 
referred to the Armenian "genocide" on several occasions, including 
three separate citations in his 2010 book "On Heaven and Earth." 

The Armenians have been campaigning for greater recognition of the 
genocide in the lead-up to the centenary, which will be formally marked 
on April 24 . Sunday 's Mass was concelebrated by the Armenian Catholic 
patriarch, Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni, and was attended by Armenian 
Orthodox church leaders as well as Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, 
who sat in a place of honor in the basilica. 

Francis also honored the Armenian community at the start of the Mass by 
pronouncing a 10th-century Armenian mystic, St. Gregory of Narek, a 
doctor of the church. Only 35 people have been given the title, which is 
reserved for those whose writings have greatly served the universal 

No comments: