Lobbies, PR firms influence Vatican, Turkey’s top religious official says
Mehmet Görmez, Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet). AA photoThe head of Turkey’s top religious body has criticized Pope Francis’ description of the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as “genocide,” arguing that the Vatican is influenced by “political lobbies and PR firms.”
“It is upsetting that political lobbies and PR firms around the world have extended [their activities] to religious institutions’ rites and prayers. If societies start to interrogate each other over past sorrows, the Vatican will suffer more than anyone else,” said Mehmet Görmez, the head of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) in the southern province of Hatay on April 13, according to The Anadolu Agency.
On April 12, Pope Francis referred to the killings of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 as “the first genocide of the 20th century,” citing a statement signed by Pope John Paul II and the Armenian patriarch in 2001.
The statement led Turkey to recall its ambassador in the Vatican and also summon the Vatican’s envoy in Ankara.
The Pope made the remarks during Mass in the Armenian Catholic rite at St. Peter’s Basilica, which Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan also attended.
Görmez also expressed his “sorrow” over the Pope’s remarks, which he described as “baseless claims.”
Turkish Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek also condemned Pope Francis’ remarks on April 13, describing them as “slander” and “discrimination.”
“It is a statement which provokes political discrimination, racism and hate speech,” Çiçek said.