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INTERNATIONAL > Ankara upset at Vatican for pope’s remarks on mass killings of Armenians

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Pope Francis gestures on June 5, 2013 at the end of his weekly general audience on St Peter's square at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE

Pope Francis gestures on June 5, 2013 at the end of his weekly general audience on St Peter's square at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE

Turkey has reacted angrily to the Vatican following a statement from Pope Francis describing the mass killings of Armenians during World War I as “the first genocide of the twentieth century” during a meeting with a delegation led by Patriarch of Cilicia of Armenian Catholics on June 3.

“The Turkish Foreign Ministry delivered Turkey’s views on the issue and expressed disappointment to the embassy in Ankara and Vatican in Rome,” a Turkish diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News on June 7.

Pope Francis described the mass killings of Armenians during World War I as “the first genocide of the 20th century” during a meeting with a delegation led by Patriarch of Cilicia of Armenian Catholics on June 3.

The pope met with members of the delegation and when one of them said that she was a descendant of genocide victims, he replied, “The first genocide of the 20th Century was that of the Armenians,” reiterating his earlier recognition of the mass killings as “Armenian Genocide” while he was the head of the Catholic Church in Buenos Aires as a cardinal.

In 2006, during events marking the 91st anniversary of the killings in Buenos Aires, he had urged Turkey to recognize “the genocide” as the “gravest crime of Ottoman Turkey against the Armenian people and the entire humanity.”

Commenting on the issue, Armenian Apostolic Church Diocese of Gougark Bishop Sebouh Chuljyan Primate said, “The pope is speaking out a historical truth. Turkey needs to see the pains and should face the genocide,” he told the Hürriyet Daily News, adding that the archives of the Vatican may be opened to investigate the issue further.

The director of the Armenian National Committee of South America, Alfonso Tabakian, explained that this was the first such statement from the pontiff since being elevated to pope and leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

Tabakian called the statement “very important since his words transcend any state or religion,” according to the Armenian weekly website.

Sevil Küçükkoşum and Vercihan Ziflioğlu contributed this story.

June/07/2013

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