ANKARA—Turkey reacted angrily to the Vatican following a statement from Pope Francis describing the mass killings of Armenians during World War I as “the first genocide of the twentieth century” during a meeting with a delegation led by Patriarch of Cilicia of Armenian Catholics on June 3.
“The Turkish Foreign Ministry delivered Turkey’s views on the issue and expressed disappointment to the embassy in Ankara and Vatican in Rome,” a Turkish diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News on June 7.
Asbarez reported on Tuesday that Pope Francis, during a meeting Monday with a delegation led by Nerses Bedros XIX, Catholicos Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenian Catholics at the Vatican reiterated his earlier recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
During the visit, the pope met with members of the delegation, when one of them said that she was a descendant of Genocide victims, to which the pontiff responded: “The first genocide of the 20th Century was that of the Armenians,” thus reiterating his earlier recognition of the Armenian Genocide while he headed the Catholic Church in Buenos Aires as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio.
Seven years ago, during events marking the 91st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in Buenos Aires, then Archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Mario Bergoglio urged Turkey to recognize the Genocide as the “gravest crime of Ottoman Turkey against the Armenian people and the entire humanity.”
Director of the Armenian National Committee of South America, Dr. Alfonso Tabakian explained that this was the first such statement from the pontiff since being elevated to pope and leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
Tabakian called the statement “very important since his words transcend any state or religion.”
“This recognition of the Armenian Genocide as the first genocide of the twentieth century reaffirms the statements of John Paul II [which were made] upon his arrival in Armenia on September 25, 2001, demonstrating that more and more states, parliaments and international organizations are adopting this position against the denial of history perpetrated by the Turkish State,” added Tabakian.
During the visit, Nerses Bedros XIX presented the pope with a painting depicting Jesus Christ on the crucifix.