Vatican Reaffirms Position on Armenian Genocide

His Holiness Aram I with Pope Benedict XVI

VATICAN CITY–A high-ranking Vatican official has emphasized that the Holy See regards the Armenian genocide as "a fact," reaffirming the Vatican’s earlier position of recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

Last May, Pope John paul II recalled the "martyrdom" of the Armenian Apostolic Church during a visit by His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenia’s, but avoided the word "genocide" pronounced several times by his predecessor John Paul II. The move was widely seen as appeasing Turkish interests pressuring the Vatican to refrain from using the word ‘genocide.’

Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for promoting Christianity at the Vatican, however, reiterated John Paul II’s recognition of the Genocide Monday in talks at the Vatican with Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia, saying that it was not a mere assertion but rather a historical fact, adding that Genocide was not merely a word but rather a reality that has claimed numerous lives.

“The Armenian Genocide is a reality, which remains a bleeding wound in the hearts and souls of Armenia’s. The Vatican’s position on this matter was articulated by Pope John Paul II’s visit to Armenia. The Pope visited the Genocide memorial monument, and as much as this might not please the Turks, he used the word ‘Genocide,’” said Cardinal Kasper.

The Cardinal, who greeted Aram I at the airport upon his arrival said this is an important visit for the Roman Catholic Church, because it will enhance the ecumenical relations between the Catholic Church and the Armenian Church in general and the Catholicosate of Cilicia in particular.

Aram I met with Pope Benedict XVI later Monday. The Pope reiterated his concern for Christian communities in the Middle East during his talks with the Catholicos, expressing his "deep concern for the people of Lebanon and the Middle East." He was "saddened by the escalation of violence and persecution against Christians in some parts of the Middle East and elsewhere."

"Peace can only be built on solid foundations if the countries concerned can determine their own destiny and if the various ethnic and religious groups accept and respect each other fully," he added.

On Sunday, Aram I paid an official visit to the Embassy of Armenia in Italy. A reception was organized in honor of the pontiff. In his remarks His Holiness emphasized the importance of the Armenian Embassies as bridge builders between the Armenian communities in Diaspora and Armenia. The Catholicos also stressed the importance of nation building. He said: “All the Armenia’s must take an active part in nation building process. A strong Armenia implies a united and organized nation. A strong Armenia also presupposes a strong Diaspora. They complement each other.”

Accompanying the Catholicos on his visit to the Vatican is Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian.

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