BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
Given the candidness of Pope Francis, it was not surprising that he clearly acknowledged the Armenian Genocide during the Pontifical Divine Liturgy at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on April 12.
The only person who was clueless about the Pope’s true intentions was Mehmet Pacaci, Turkey’s Ambassador to the Vatican, who had bragged to the Turkish press two weeks ago that he had convinced the Pope to reject all Armenian requests for the Genocide Centennial.
The Turkish Ambassador claimed that he had managed to:
– Cancel the Pope’s April 24 visit to Yerevan;
– Convince the Pope not to celebrate Mass at the Vatican on April 24;
– Eliminate the words ‘Armenian Genocide’ from the Pope’s address during the April 12 Vatican Mass.
The Turkish and Azerbaijani media reported Amb. Pacaci’s contentions as a major victory for Turkish diplomacy and a devastating defeat for Armenians.
Amb. Pacaci’s false claims were simply intended to impress his superiors in Ankara about his ‘good work.’ The truth is that the Pope had neither planned to visit Yerevan on April 24 nor celebrate Mass at the
Vatican on that date. The Turkish Ambassador’s third claim that the Pope would not use the term ‘Armenian Genocide’ during his April 12 address, but would only offer “prayers for all those who lost their lives during the tragic events of 1915,” also turned out to be false!
Contrary to Amb Pacaci’s real or imaginary pressures on the Vatican, the Pope made an explicit and lengthy reference to the Armenian Genocide at St. Peter’s Basilica on April 12 which was broadcast worldwide on TV networks, the radio, newspapers, and the internet. In attendance were Armenia’s President Serzh Sargsyan, Catholicos Karekin II, Catholicos Aram I, Patriarch of Armenian Catholics Nerses Bedros XIX, and thousands of worshippers from dozens of countries. Here are excerpts from the Pope’s remarks:
“In the past century our human family has lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies. The first, which is widely considered ‘the first genocide of the 20th Century’, struck your own Armenian people, the first Christian nation, as well as Catholic and Orthodox Syrians, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Greeks. Bishops and priests, religious women and men, the elderly and even defenseless children and the sick were murdered. The other two were perpetrated by Nazism and Stalinism. And more recently, there have been other mass killings, like those in Cambodia, Rwanda, Burundi and Bosnia. It seems that humanity is incapable of putting an end to the shedding of innocent blood…. Dear Armenian Christians, today, with hearts filled with pain, but at the same time with great hope in the risen Lord, we recall the Centenary of that tragic event — that immense and senseless slaughter — whose cruelty your forefathers had to endure. It is necessary, and indeed a duty, to honor their memory, for whenever memory fades, it means that evil allows wounds to fester. Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it!”
Pope Francis had repeatedly spoken about the Armenian Genocide as a Cardinal in Argentina, and had included three references to that issue in his 2010 book, “On Heaven and Earth.” On June 3, 2013, shortly after his election, Pope Francis described the Armenian Genocide as “the first genocide of the 20th Century.”
The Vatican had first referred to the Armenian mass killings on Sept. 10, 1915, when Pope Benedict XV sent a letter to Sultan Mahomet V, asking him to stop the wholesale massacres of innocent Armenians. Twice, on Nov. 9, 2000, and Sept. 27, 2001, Pope John Paul II and Catholicos Karekin II issued joint statements acknowledging the Armenian Genocide.
Not surprisingly, the Turkish government reacted angrily to the Pope’s latest reference to the Armenian Genocide, and immediately recalled its Ambassador from the Vatican. Amb. Pacaci may now get fired for having falsely claimed that he had succeeded in silencing the Pope on the Armenian Genocide issue. Meanwhile, the Turkish government’s overreaction and the Pope’s refusal to apologize for his remarks made international headlines on TV networks, websites and newspapers around the world.
The long-planned Turkish efforts to undermine the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide have been drowned out by the extensive media attention to the Kardashians’ maiden visit to Armenia and the Pope’s courageous reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide right before April 24.