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Arriving in Armenia, Pope invokes the term: genocide

June 24, 2016

Arriving in Armenia on June 24 to begin a weekend visit, Pope Francis broke from his prepared text to use the term "genocide" in a reference to the massacres of 1915.

At a meeting with Catholicos Karekin II, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church; and Armenia's President Serzh Sargysan, the Pope referred to the Turkish slaughter of Armenians. He said: 

Sadly, that tragedy, that genocide, was the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century, made possible by twisted racial, ideological or religious aims that darkened the minds of the tormentors even to the point of planning the annihilation of entire peoples.

The word "genocide" did not appear in the text of the Pope's speech that had been distributed to reporters. The government of Turkey adamantly refuses to recognize the 1.5 million Armenian deaths of 1915 as an act of genocide. Last year, when Pope Francis used the same term, an angry Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had warned him "not to repeat that mistake." Moreover, less than a week ago, the Pontiff had said that the word "genocide" should not be used in reference to the persecution of Christians today in the Middle East. Reporters were struck, therefore, by his deliberate use of the term in Armenia.

Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, denied that other Vatican officials had tried to dissuade the Pope from using the word. Pope Francis, he said, had seen and approved the prepared text of his speech. However, he said, the Pope is "free to change the text." 

 

 
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