Sparking outrage from Turkish officialdom, Pope Francis described the World War I-era massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottomans as the “first genocide of the 20th century.”
Turkish officials are upset also because the pope urged the international community to recognize the killings for what they were.
“Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it,” the pope said at a commemorative mass held in St. Peter’s Basilica for the 100th anniversary of the Armenian massacres, according to AP.
“A century has passed since that horrific massacre, which was a true martyrdom of your people, in which many innocent people died as confessors and martyrs for the name of Christ,” the pope said.
“Even today, there is not an Armenian family untouched by the loss of loved ones due to that tragedy: It truly was Metz Yeghern, the ‘Great Evil’, as it is known by Armenians.”
Men, women, and children were rounded up and sent out in large numbers to barren desert regions where they died of starvation and thirst.
Thousands of others are also believed to have been killed in massacres.
In the Black Sea region, they were put onto boats and then thrown overboard.
The pope also said similar massacres are occurring now against Christians who are “publicly and ruthlessly put to death—decapitated, crucified, burned alive—or forced to leave their homeland,” in reference to the brutal actions of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
You can see part of the pope’s speech in the video below, which also includes the reaction of Ahmet Davutoğlu, the Turkish Prime Minister.
As you can tell by Ahmet’s response, Turkey bristles at the mention of what happened a hundred years ago, and it denies a genocide occurred, saying the death toll has been inflated.
It’s even a crime inside Turkey for journalists to describe what happened as genocide.
Among the 21 countries that formally recognize the Armenian genocide are Poland, Argentina, Belgium, Canada, France, Italy, Russia, Lebanon, and Uruguay. Forty-three states of the US recognize the genocide.
Below is a video about Mehmet Celal Bey, a Turk who defied the Ottoman Turkish government’s deportation orders, and used his position as the Governor of Aleppo, and later Konya, to save Armenian lives. Full respect to him.