The Turkish government expressed its dismay at Pope Francis’ words regarding the killing of Armenians in 1915 as the “the first genocide of the twentieth century.”
The Holy Father made these remarks during a Mass with members of the Armenian Rite on Sunday.
“It is necessary, and indeed a duty, to honour their memory, for whenever memory fades, it means that evil allows wounds to fester. Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it!” he said.
Reaction by Turkish officials was swift, with Turkey summoning the Vatican’s ambassador in Ankara and recalling it’s ambassador to the Holy See for consultation. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also released a statement, saying that the Pope’s remarks “contradict historical and legal facts.”
“Pope Francis has made today a discrimination between the sufferings by solely emphasizing the sufferings of the Christians and foremost the Armenians,” the statement read. “With a selective point of view, he ignored the tragedies that befell on the Turkish and Muslim people who had lost their lives in World War I.”
The Turkish government, while recognizing that Armenians were killed, argue that the number of casualities is greatly exaggerated. However, countless scholars and 22 countries have formally recognized the murder of 1.5 million Armenians as a genocide.
“Given his statements of today, we understand that Pope Francis is under the influence of the Armenian narrative which persists to derive enmity from history instead of leaving a legacy of friendship and peace to the future generations. We reject this approach,” the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also responded to Pope Francis’ remarks, calling them “inappropriate” and “one-sided.” During an event in Istanbul on Sunday,Davutoğl said that “only highlighting one side’s suffering during war time and discriminating the others’ pain is not appropriate for the pope and the authority that he holds.”
Turkey’s Foreign Minister also took to Twitter to denounce the Holy Father’s statements. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu tweeted: “Religious offices are not places through which hatred and animosity are fueled by unfounded allegations.”
The Holy See has yet to comment on the Turkish goverment’s response to Pope Francis’ words.