THE VATICAN (Combined Sources)–Pope Benedict XVI on Friday avoided the word Genocide pronounced several times by his predecessor John Paul II and referred to the annihilation of 1.5 million Armenia’s between 1915-1923 as the "martyrdom" of the Armenian Apostolic Church during a visit by Catholicos Karekin II.
Karekin II, on the fourth and final day of a visit to the Vatican, had on Wednesday urged "all nations to universally denounce the Armenian genocide" in a speech to some 20,000 people gathered in St Peter’s Square.
On Friday, however, the pope said: "The recent history of the Armenian Apostolic Church has been written in the contrasting colors of persecution and martyrdom, darkness and hope, humiliation and spiritual rebirth."
"The restoration of freedom to the Church in Armenia has been a source of great joy for us all," the 81-year-old pontiff added.
The European Armenian Federation recalled that Vatican already recognized the Armenian Genocide through a joint declaration of John Paul II and Karekin II in 2000. “We commend the courage and the determination of both the Apostolic Armenian and Catholic Roman Churches about this deep moral failure represented by the Armenian Genocide and its denial. We call upon the Heads of the States and of Governmen’s to pay attention to these Voices of Wisdom and Lucidity in recognizing, if not yet, the Armenian Genocide” stated Hilda Tchoboian, the chairperson of the European Armenian Federation.
“We call especially the European authorities to uphold the European values in adopting provisions to prevent and to repress the crime of denial as the 1948 Covenant represses the crime of genocide” concluded Tchoboian
In November 2000, a meeting at the Vatican between John Paul II and Karekin II ended with a joint statement condemning the Armenian Genocide.
The following year, at Karekin II’s invitation, the Polish pope traveled to Armenia where the two religious leaders again spoke of "the extermination of one-and-a-half million Armenian Christians" in the first genocide of the 20th century. John Paul II also spoke of the "annihilation" of thousands of people that followed under the former totalitarian regime," referring to Soviet-era religious persecutions.
On Friday, Karekin II invited Benedict XVI to visit Armenia both in his own name and on behalf of new President Serzh Sarkisian. The two religious leaders had private talks after the pope led an ecumenical celebration in the Apostolic Palace’s Clementine Hall.