US President Barack Obama expressed his support for Pope Francis’ description of the events of 1915 against Armenians as a “genocide.” The statement was released by the White House Press Secretary yesterday on the occasion of Armenian Remembrance Day.
During a Mass with the faithful of the Armenian Rite, the Holy Father quoted St. John Paul II in describing the murder of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
“In the past century our human family has lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies. The first, which is widely considered ‘the first genocide of the twentieth century’, struck your own Armenian people, the first Christian nation, as well as Catholic and Orthodox Syrians, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Greeks,” the Pope said.
Following that statement, Turkey recalled its ambassador to the Holy See for consultation and summoned the Vatican’s Apostolic Nuncio. Various Turkish officials, including President Tayyip Erdogan openly condemned the Pope. However, many representatives and heads of state around the world applauded the Holy Father’s recognition of “The Great Evil”.
For his part, President Obama said that the 100th anniversary is a solemn moment to “reflect on the importance of historical remembrance, and the difficult but necessary work of reckoning with the past.”
However, the American president backed down from using the word “genocide” in the statement, contradicting a promise he made during his 2008 presidential campaign that he would recognize the 1915 events. Turkey remains a key NATO ally in the region and the U.S. government has traditionally avoided using the term in order to not strain ties.
Despite this, Obama wrote: “I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed.” He went on to express his support for the Holy Father’s statement earlier this month.
“We welcome the expression of views by Pope Francis, Turkish and Armenian historians, and the many others who have sought to shed light on this dark chapter of history.”
Concluding his statement, President Obama pledged his support for the Armenian people and expressed his hope that the world learns “from this painful legacy, so that future generations may not repeat it.”