Pope Francis on Sunday described the World War I-era slaughter of Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish Muslims as the “first genocide of the 20th century,” igniting a diplomatic confrontation with Turkish leaders, who quickly sent down orders for the Vatican’s ambassador to condemn the pontiff’s remarks and then recalled the ambassador back to Turkey.
NY Times Francis, who made the comments at a Mass for the centenary of the start of the mass killings, and in a later message to all Armenians, repeated his stance that the seemingly piecemeal global violence of the 21st century actually represented a “third world war.”
Francis said it was a duty of everyone not to forget the “senseless slaughter” of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1923. “Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it,” the pope added.
He also described his frustration with what he considers global indifference toward the persecution and killing of Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere, especially by militants with the Islamic State.
“Today, too, we are experiencing a sort of genocide created by general and collective indifference,” Francis said.
In addressing the Armenian question, Francis quoted from a 2001 declaration by Pope John Paul II and Catholicos Karekin II, the Armenian Apostolic Church’s supreme patriarch, in which the two leaders called the Armenian slaughter a campaign of extermination that was “generally referred to as the first genocide of the 20th century.”
Francis said it was a duty of everyone not to forget the “senseless slaughter” of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1923, not to mention nearly 2 million Greeks and Assyrians. “Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it,” the pope added.
On Twitter, the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, dismissed Francis’ comments as baseless. “It is not possible to accept the pope’s statement, which is far from any legal or historical reality,” he wrote. “Religious authorities are not the places to incite resentment and hatred with baseless allegations.”
Later, the Foreign Ministry said that Ankara’s ambassador to the Vatican, Mehmet Pacaci, had been recalled for “deliberations.”