Vatican Archives Reveal Effort to Stop Genocide

La Santa Sede e lo sterminio degli armeni nell'Impero Ottomano

ROME, Italy (Rome Reports)—Valentina Karakhanian is one of two researchers from the Vatican Secret Archives who has gathered every document the Holy See keeps on the Armenian Genocide.

Cover of La Santa Sede e lo sterminio degli armeni nell'Impero Ottomano

Cover of La Santa Sede e lo sterminio degli armeni nell’Impero Ottomano

Karakhanian and co-researcher Omar Viganò compiled their research into a book La Santa Sede e lo sterminio degli armeni nell’Impero Ottomano, which translates to “The Holy See and the Extermination of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.” The book is about the accounts of how the apostolic delegate of former Pope Benedict XV gradually became aware of the tragedy that was being perpetrated and tried to stop it.

“We have tried to organize the documents so that they themselves account for the massacre of Armenians. The protagonists include Armenians, bishops, nuncios, and ambassadors who lived or witnessed the first genocide of the 20th century,” Karakhanian said.

The main character of the book is the pope’s representative, Cardinal Angelo Maria Dolci. It shows how he tried to mobilize the diplomatic corps in Constantinople, denounce what happened and reach the Sultan, without much success.

“The Vatican did what it could, and in some cases what it could not, because the Nuncio went to meet with people who were outside the diplomatic sphere. The apostolic delegate had no right to go to those offices. But he went and showed the delegation’s private documents, because to get to the Sultan it was necessary to show the pope’s signature. He met with ministers, with the Grand Vizier, and with the Sultan. He spoke on behalf of the pope and the Holy See, because he was certain that Pope Benedict XV wanted to help and save these people,” the researcher said.

The first-person accounts from the papal representative give a terribly close-up view of the extermination of Christians expelled from their homes.

“In some regions they have been massacred, others deported to unknown places, left to die along the way. There are mothers who have even sold their own children to save them from death.”

“At one point he understood that the persecution was not specifically against the Armenians, but against the Christians on the territory. The Christians had to be eliminated from that territory. Together with the Armenians, many Assyrians, Chaldeans, Melkites, Maronites were persecuted and murdered … It was the pain and persecution that united them,” Karakhanian said.

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