Pope’s Armenian ‘genocide’ remark is unacceptable: Turkish FM
Pope’s Armenian ‘genocide’ remark is unacceptable: Turkish FM –
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Sunday called the slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turks “the first genocide of the 20th century” and urged the international community to recognize it as such, sparking a diplomatic rift with Turkey at a delicate time in Christian-Muslim relations.
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, who was on hand to mark the 100th anniversary of the slaughter at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, praised the pope for calling a spade a spade in an interview with The Associated Press. But Turkey, which has long denied a genocide took place, immediately summoned the Vatican ambassador in Ankara to complain.
“The pope’s statement which is far from historic and legal truths is unacceptable,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted. “Religious positions are not places where unfounded claims are made and hatred is stirred.”
Pope Francis’ willingness to rile Ankara with his words showed once again that he has few qualms about taking diplomatic risks for issues close to his heart. He took a similar risk by inviting the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to pray together for peace at the Vatican — a summit that was followed by the outbreak of fighting in the Gaza Strip.
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, Karekin II, which said the deaths were considered “the first genocide of the 20th century.”
But the context of Francis’ pronunciation was different and significant: He uttered the words during an Armenian rite Mass in St. Peter’s marking the 100th anniversary of the slaughter, alongside the Armenian Catholic patriarch, Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni, Armenian Christian church leaders and Armenian president Sargsyan, who sat in a place of honour in the basilica.