Turkey has recalled its ambassador to the Vatican as it accused Pope Francis of planting hatred based on unfounded claims. The strong reaction came as the Pope called the massacre by Ottoman Turks “the first genocide of the 20th century” in a speech given to the Armenian people on Sunday, April 12.
The Great Evil, Armenian Genocide
Pope Francis started his speech by quoting the Common Declaration by John Paul II and Karekin II, on September 27 2001.
“A century has passed since that horrific massacre which was a true martyrdom of your people, in which many innocent people died as confessors and martyrs for the name of Christ,” the Pope said.
“Even today, there is not an Armenian family untouched by the loss of loved ones due to that tragedy: it truly was ‘Metz Yeghern’, the ‘Great Evil’, as it is known by Armenians. On this anniversary, I feel a great closeness to your people and I wish to unite myself spiritually to the prayers which rise up from your hearts, your families and your communities,” Pope Francis continued.
The pope then quoted John Paul II and Karekin II’s work by saying that the faith of the Armenians sustained and accompanied them “during the tragic experience one hundred years ago ‘in what is generally referred to as the first genocide of the twentieth century.’”
The pope went on with his speech, quoting other world’s religious leaders before him.
“Pope Benedict XV, who condemned the First World War as a ‘senseless slaughter,’ did everything in his power until the very end to stop it, continuing the efforts at mediation already begun by Pope Leo XIII when confronted with the ‘deadly events’ of 1894-96. For this reason, Pope Benedict XV wrote to Sultan Mehmed V, pleading that the many innocents be saved and, in the Secret Consistory of 6 December 1915, he declared with great dismay, ‘Miserrima Armenorum gens ad interitum prope ducitur.’”
View full speech here.
The Pope Angers Turkey
“The pope’s statement, which is far from historic and legal truths, is unacceptable. Religious positions are not places where unfounded claims are made and hatred is stirred,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted, as cited by Fox News. The Turkish Foreign Ministry has now recalled its Vatican envoy in Ankara and its Vatican ambassador.
In a statement obtained by Fox News, the ministry said Pope Francis’ speech was “controversial in every aspect.” The statement stated that the speech was “based on prejudice, distorts history and reduces the pains suffered in Anatolia under the conditions of the First World War to members of just one religion.”
The statement added that the Pope deviated from his message of peace and reconciliation he brought when he visited Turkey in November.
The Armenian president, on the other hand, lauded the pope for “calling things by their names.” He said that for the Armenian people, “the primary issue is universal recognition of the Armenian genocide, including recognition by Turkey.”
U.S. Rep Adam Schiff hoped that Pope Francis’ speech “inspire our president and Congress to demonstrate a like commitment to speaking the truth about the Armenian genocide and to renounce Turkey’s campaign of concealment and denial.”
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