Anger as Pope calls Armenian massacre 'first genocide of 20th century'
Published 12/04/2015 | 10:47
Pope Francis has incurred the wrath of Turkey after he marked the 100th anniversary of the massacre of as many as 1.5 million Armenians as "the first genocide of the 20th century".
During a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, Francis recalled the "senseless slaughter" of a century ago.
"It is necessary, and indeed a duty, to honour their memory, for whenever memory fades, it means that evil allows wounds to fester," he said.
“Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it."
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Turkey’s embassy to the Holy See cancelled a press conference planned for Sunday after learning that the pope would utter the word “genocide” over its objections.
Muslim Turkey accepts many Christian Armenians died in partisan fighting beginning in 1915, but it denies that hundreds of thousands were killed and that this amounted to "genocide".
In 2014, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered condolences to the grandchildren of all the Armenians who lost their lives for the first time.
But he also said that it was inadmissible for Armenia to turn the issue "into a matter of political conflict".
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Armenia says up to 1.5 million people died in 1915-16 as the Ottoman empire split.
Most non-Turkish scholars believed that up to 1.5 million Armenians died as the Ottoman empire split during the period of 1915-1916, and regard the deaths as genocide.
Turkey, however, maintains that many of the dead were killed in clashes during World War I, and that ethnic Turks also suffered in the conflict.
Several European countries recognise the massacres as genocide, though Italy and the United States have avoided using the term officially given the importance they place on Turkey as an ally.