Pope Francis Mentions Armenian Genocide, Sparks An International Incident

Pope Francis stepped into a century-old controversy and created something of an international incident with remarks he made on Sunday about the Armenian Genocide, The Wall Street Journal is reporting.

Speaking from Saint Peter’s Basilica in an event marking the 100th anniversary of the event, Pope Francis called on Christians and Muslims alike to recognize the Armenian Genocide for what it is – a crime against humanity.

“It is necessary, and indeed a duty [to] recall the centenary of that tragic event, that immense and senseless slaughter whose cruelty your forbears had to endure… Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.”

The Turkish government was not amused, according to ABC News. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu posted his concerns about Pope Francis’ remarks on social media.

Furthermore, Turkey recalled its ambassador to the Vatican and called in the Vatican ambassador to Turkey for “consultations.”

The Armenian Genocide began officially on April 24, 1915, as World War I was raging and the Ottaman Empire (much of which is now modern-day Turkey) was winding down, according to The History Channel. For centuries, Armenian Christians had lived as second-class citizens in the Empire, given limited rights under the Empire’s Muslim rule. When a political movement known as The Young Turks began to modernize the country and turn it into a constitutional republic, they also made the decision to get rid of the non-Muslim, non-Turks within its borders.

Over the next several months, some million to 1.5 million Armenians died at the hands of the Turks via starvation, forced marches, drowning, and even crucifixions.

Although historians generally refer to the events as the “Armenian Genocide,” those are considered fighting words in Turkey. Many Turks, including some within the Turkish government, refuse to acknowledge the event at all; others claim that the scale of the atrocities has been blown out of proportion.

Pope Francis, for his part, chose not to shy away from the controversy, and earned the respect of Armenian president Serge Sarkisian for telling it like it is.

“For our people, the primary issue is universal recognition of the Armenian genocide, including recognition by Turkey.”

Do you think Pope Francis was wrong to bring up the Armenian Genocide, or to call the event a genocide? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.

[Image courtesy of: Shutterstock/Philip Chidell]