The Truth about the Armenian Genocide
Turkish politicians are angry with Pope Francis for memorializing the Armenian genocide when he proclaimed the first Armenian doctor of the Church. The Pope had also lamented the genocide when he met with Armenian bishops a few days earlier.
As a matter of policy, the Turkish government refuses to admit that the measures taken against Armenians living within Turkey’s borders beginning in 1915 can be characterized as genocide. Responding to the Pope’s words, the government protested and recalled its ambassador to the Vatican. Today, the President of Turkey condemned Pope Francis’ statement and warned him “not to repeat this mistake.” Even the Roman Catholic Apostolic Vicar of Istanbul suggested that the Christian community experienced “a bit of embarrassment” as a result of the Pope’s remarks.
The “embarrassment” is understandable because, as the head of the (Orthodox) Armenian Apostolic Church noted, the Turkish government is apparently trying to dismiss genocidal concerns as a religious issue between Christians and Muslims, when in fact the genocide was ideologically statist under the leadership of the Young Turks. Thus papal honesty has made the Catholic position in Turkey a little more uncomfortable.
Sadly, the deliberate, systematic and legal extermination of Armenians in Turkey by the Ottoman Turkish government was the very horror that led to the coining of the term “genocide” in 1943. Since that time, only the Nazi genocide has been more studied by scholars. Over 22 countries have recognized and condemned the Armenian Genocide. Many Turks have urged their own government to recognize it for what it was. And the European Parliament passed an unusual resolution today, commending Pope Francis’ remarks and urging the government of Turkey to acknowledge the genocide as a first step toward reconciliation.
So do not be fooled. Between 1915 and 1917, the Armenian genocide claimed the lives of about 1.5 million men, women and children by mass burning, drowning, poison, and deliberate inoculation with active Typhoid. Men were systematically killed outright or through forced labor, while women were “death-marched” into the Syrian desert by military escorts, who repeatedly raped them before they died.
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