Pope Francis again used the word genocide to refer to the 1915 Armenian massacres in Ottoman Turkey, in a joint declaration with the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church issued on Sunday.
Francis and Catholicos Garegin (Karekin) II signed it at the end of the pontiff’s three-day visit to Armenia. The document cites another joint statement that was adopted by Garegin and the late Pope John Paull II in 2001.
Francis recalled and endorsed that statement during a 2015 Vatican mass dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. Turkey reacted angrily to that move.
Francis and Garegin declared: “We are grateful that we had the grace of being together, at a solemn liturgy in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome on 12 April 2015, where we … commemorated the victims of what the Common Declaration of His Holiness John-Paul II and His Holiness Karekin II spoke of as ‘the extermination of a million and a half Armenian Christians, in what is generally referred to as the first genocide of the twentieth century.’”
Francis similarly described the World War I-era slaughter of up to 1.5 million Armenians as genocide when he addressed Armenian leaders and foreign diplomats in Yerevan at the start of his visit on Friday. It was “the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century,” he said.
Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister denounced the pontiff’s “greatly unfortunate” comments late on Saturday, saying that they bore the hallmarks of the “mentality of the Crusades.”
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, dismissed the criticism on Sunday. “The pope is not doing Crusades,” the Associated Press quoted Lombardi as saying. “He has said no words against the Turkish people.”