Western newspapers continued on Thursday their coverage of the Papal visit to Armenia. "The Washington Post," "The New York Times,” Britain’s "The Guardian" and "The Times" carried reports from Yerevan on the Pope's emotional tribute yesterday to the victims of the Armenian Genocide in 1915.
Pope John Paul II already signed a document which called the systematic annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey as a genocide, but Wednesday he pulled off the delicate diplomatic and linguistic feat of deploring the 1915 massacre that Armenians consider genocide by the Turks – without offending Turkey, a key Islamic American ally, New York Times reports. "But in his remarks, in English, he used not the word genocide but the Armenian term "Metz Yeghern." This signifies genocide to people here, much as the Hebrew "Shoah" means Holocaust, but translates literally as "the big calamity."
According to New York Times, Turkish officials were satisfied, in part because the word "Turk" had not been mentioned, either. "By most historical accounts, the Ottoman empire killed more than a million Armenians during World War I in a campaign of death and mass deportations aimed at eliminating the Armenian population from what is now Turkey", the paper concludes.
Pope John Paul II paid mournful tribute today as many as 1.5 million Armenians who perished between 1915 and 1923 while under Turkish rule, the "Washington Post" reports from Yerevan. In its background information about the region and Armenia the paper writes that Armenia's economy collapsed with the break-up of the Soviet Union. "Its politics are unstable, vividly demonstrated in October 1999 when gunmen broke into the parliament and murdered the prime minister and six others."
Armenia is feuding with Azerbaijan, one of its Muslim neighbors, over Nagorno-Karabakh. "But at least some of that was forgotten today as the world's oldest Christian nation celebrated the pope's visit, Washington Post writes saying that Pope came to Armenia to celebrate country's 1700th anniversary as a Christian state as well as to bring Armenia back into the fold of Roman Catholicism.
The British newspaper Guardian also explains its readers the meaning of newly internationalized Armenian description of Genocide "Mez Yeghern". "For more than 75 years the Armenians have used metz yeghern to refer to what they say was genocide, a word coined during the Second World War in response to the Holocaust. Some dictionaries say that over the years yeghern has come to mean genocide." Turkey strongly denies that Ottoman government has conducted the policy of genocide against Armenians. Pope stopped short of using the word genocide, using instead metz yeghern. "But beyond the technicalities of words, it was clear that the Pope was moved at the monument to the many who were killed in the region between 1915 and 1923," the Guardian writes.
According to another British newspaper "Times", the papal spokesman denied that the Pope, "who appeared in good form yesterday, had been taken ill on arrival in Armenia."
(Harry Tamrazian in Prague)