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Turkey recalls ambassador to Holy See, protests Pope's statement on Armenian genocide

April 13, 2015

The government of Turkey has recalled its ambassador to the Holy See, protesting a strong public statement by Pope Francis condemning the Armenian genocide.

The Pope said that the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Turkish regime in 1915 was “the first genocide of the 20th century.” Those words were identical to the formula used in a statement released jointly in 2001 by St. John Paul II and Catholicos Karekin II, the leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

But the Turkish government, which had let the earlier statement pass without a major protest, objected vehemently to the statement by Pope Francis. Turkey has lobbied energetically for decades against characterization of the Armenian deaths as genocide.

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu complained that the papal statement was “far from historic and legal truths,” and “unacceptable.” He went on to say that religious leaders should not made “unfounded claims” to stir up hatred.

Turkey’s foreign ministry summoned the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Lucibello, to express outrage over the Pope’s words, and recalled the country’s own ambassador, Mehmet Pacaci, from Rome “for consultations.” The foreign ministry said that the Pope’s words were “based on prejudice, which distorts history and reduces the pains suffered in Anatolia under the conditions of the First World War to members of just one religion." Armenian leaders, on the other hand, were delighted with the Pope’s statement. President Serge Sarkisian was that the Pontiff had delivered “a powerful message to the international community.”

Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX of the Armenian Catholic Church told the Fides news agency that the Turkish government is sensitive to conflicts between Christianity and Islam. But the Armenian prelate said: “The Pope is not lined up 'with' Armenians 'against' the Turks. He is not against anyone.” The Pontiff, he said, spoke as the conscience of mankind. “The memory and the condemnation of the horrors of the past can serve to prevent those things from happening again, as unfortunately is happening even now in many parts of the world, starting from the Middle East.” Turkey’s leaders, representing a secular government in a society where Muslim public influence is growing steadily, have sought to enlist Vatican support for their own claims that the Western world is hostile to Islam. The government reacted sharply, therefore, to the Pope’s suggestion that Turkey itself was guilty of a genocidal campaign against a Christian ethnic group.


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  • Posted by: Thomas429 - Apr. 13, 2015 11:52 PM ET USA

    Turkey did not complain when Eastern Orthodoxy made the same comments. How quaint. There is a new broom in Turkey and it is not the world's friend. Remember their part in attempting arms shipments to Gaza.

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Apr. 13, 2015 7:20 PM ET USA

    Bravo to the Pope for telling the truth, which is systematically suppressed in Turkey. We have to remember or we will definitely forget and do such a thing all over again. Even Turks are subject to original sin.