2015-04-12 22:44:06 UTC
Pope uttering ‘genocide’ angers Turks, Vatican ambassador recalled
April 12, 2015, Sunday/ 18:32:48/ TODAY'S ZAMAN / ANKARA
pope Francis called the mass killings of Armenians at the end of World War I under Ottoman rule “the first genocide of the 20th century” during his Sunday Mass, and immediately after it Turkey called its ambassador to the Vatican back to Ankara for consultation.
Vatican Ambassador to Turkey Antonio Lucibello was summoned to the Foreign Ministry on Sunday. The ministry's deputy undersecretary, Levent Murat Burhan, told Lucibello that Turkey is “greatly saddened and disappointed” by the pope's characterization of the 1915 events as genocide, a Foreign Ministry spokesman told journalists. Turkey also called its ambassador to the Vatican back to Ankara for consultation.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu wrote on his Twitter account on Sunday that the pope's genocide remarks are “unacceptable.”
“The pope's remarks, which are not based on historical and legal facts, are not acceptable. Religious positions are not the place to fuel malice and hatred with unfounded claims,” said Çavuşoğlu.
The pope was the first guest at President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's lavish palace when he visited Turkey last November.
At the start of his Sunday Mass in the Armenian Catholic rite in St. Peter's Basilica honoring the centenary, Pope Francis said, “Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.”
It is claimed that the pope has close ties to the Armenian community from his days in Argentina and he has said it is his duty to honor the memory of the innocent men, women, children, priests and bishops who were “senselessly” murdered.
The pope also called on all heads of state and international organizations to recognize “the truth” of what transpired and oppose such crimes without ceding to ambiguity or compromise, in a subsequent message directed to all Armenians.
Pope Francis's remarks acknowledging the 1915 events as genocide came at the 100th anniversary of the mass killings of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. Armenia has been preparing to commemorate the tragic events on April 24 with the attendance of a number of world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ankara denies claims that the events of 1915 amount to genocide, arguing that both Turks and Armenians were killed when Armenians revolted against the Ottoman Empire during World War I in collaboration with the Russian army, which was then invading Eastern Anatolia.
Pope Francis is not the first pope to utter the word “genocide.” Pope John Paul II also described the Armenian killing as “the first genocide of the 20th century” in a joint statement with Armenian Apostolic Church Supreme Patriarch Kerekin II in 2001. Pope Francis had used the word "genocide" back in 2013 during a Vatican audience with an Armenian delegation and prompted a strong protest from Ankara.
Following the pope's remarks, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Adana deputy and veteran diplomat Faruk Loğoğlu issued a statement on Sunday criticizing the pope for his genocide remarks.
Loğoğlu said the pope's remarks are not only damaging to Turkish-Armenian relations but also “provocative and destructive” at a time when tensions between the Christian and Islamic world are rising.
“The pope's repeating this claim one more time without referring to a source, reason or an international court decision is not understandable, acceptable or forgivable,” said Loğoğlu. Accusing the pope of resorting to populism that may lead to grave consequences, Loğoğlu said the pope is taking sides and neglecting historical facts.
Loğoğlu also urged the Turkish government to recall its ambassador to the Holy See until the pope corrects his genocide remarks.
Opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) parliamentary group deputy chairman Yusuf Halaçoğlu criticized the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and said that despite the pope being the first guest at President Erdoğan's palace, “Turkey is not capable of preventing the pope from making a political statement against Turkey.”
Halaçoğlu said religious leaders or politicians do not have the right to make a grave accusation such as genocide against a country.
Turkey's ambassador to the Holy See canceled a planned news conference for Sunday, presumably after learning that the pope would utter the word "genocide" over its objections.
The pope uttered the word “genocide” during an Armenian rite Mass in St. Peter's Basilica marking the 100th anniversary of the mass killings, alongside the Armenian Catholic patriarch, Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni, Armenian Christian church leaders and Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan, who sat in a place of honor in the basilica.
Pope Francis also said that the killing of Armenians was the first of three massive and unprecedented genocides last century that was followed by the Holocaust and Stalinism. He said the mass killings in Cambodia, Rwanda, Burundi and Bosnia had followed.
The pope said the human family seems to be refusing to learn from its mistakes and even today there are those who attempt to eliminate others with the help of a few and the complicit silence of those who stand by. Pope Francis has frequently denounced the “complicit silence” of the international community in the face of the modern-day ethnic and religious killings by extremists.
During Sunday's Mass, the pope pronounced a 10th-century Armenian mystic, St. Gregory of Narek, a doctor of the church to honor the Armenian community. Only 35 people have been given the title.