Pope provokes row with Turkey over 'genocide' claim
Published 13/04/2015 | 02:30
The Pope has provoked a diplomatic row with Turkey before the 100th anniversary commemorations of the mass killing of Armenians under Ottoman rule, after describing it as "genocide".
The comments by Pope Francis, made in an address to Armenian politicians and Orthodox church leaders in Rome yesterday, led to the Turkish foreign ministry summoning the Vatican's envoy to Ankara for an official dressing-down.
There had been intense speculation over whether the Pontiff would use the controversial term during the service, which came two weeks before what Armenia regards as the anniversary of the killings on April 24.
Doing so risks alienating a potential ally in the Catholic Church's efforts to stop radical Islamists persecuting Christians in the Middle East.
However, the Pope made his intentions clear just minutes into the service yesterday, labelling the slaughter "the first genocide of the 20th century".
His comments will be seen as a clear decision to ignore previous diplomatic protests from Ankara after he spoke about Armenian genocide in an unofficial capacity two years ago.
On that occasion, a Vatican spokesman was forced to deny that the pronouncement signified his official stance.
Armenia and many historians believe that up to 1.5 million people were systematically killed by Ottoman forces in 1915. The deaths are regarded by Turks as casualties from a civil war.
At yesterday's Armenian Catholic rite marking the centenary, Pope Francis said humanity had lived through "three massive and unprecedented tragedies" in the last century, the other two being Nazism and Stalinism.
"The first, which is widely considered the first genocide of the 20th century, struck your own Armenian people," he said. "Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it."
More than 20 countries, including Italy, France, Russia, Germany, Argentina and Cyprus, formally recognise the massacre as genocide.
Turkey's foreign ministry reportedly told the Vatican's envoy that it was "disappointed" by the comments, and that they caused a "problem of trust". (© Daily Telegraph, London)