YEREVAN, Armenia, SEPT. 26, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II paid a moving tribute this morning to the 1.5 million Armenians killed in a genocide last century, in the hope that the world will never again witness “such inhuman aberrations.”
“Listen, O Lord, to the lament that rises from this place, to the call of the dead from the depths of the Metz Yeghérn,” the Pope prayed at the Titzernakaberd Memorial, in the presence of Armenian Apostolic Patriarch Karekin II.
In Armenian, “Metz Yeghérn” means “great crime” or “great evil.” Armenians use the term to refer to the genocide that began under the Ottoman Empire in 1915.
The Turkish government does not consider the loss of life as a genocide but rather as the normal consequence of war and civil upheavals.
“We are appalled by the terrible violence done to the Armenian people, and dismayed that the world still knows such inhumanity,” the Pope said during his prayer.
“But, renewing our hope in your promise, we implore, O Lord, rest for the dead in the peace which knows no end, and the healing of still open wounds through the power of your love,” the Holy Father concluded.
The ceremony took place in the Armenian capital, in the shadow of Mount Ararat, where the Bible indicates Noah´s ark came to rest. The mountain is on the Turkish side of the border.
Armenian priests, wearing the typical black hoods of their Church, met around the eternal flame that commemorates the innocent victims. During the prayer, a choir sang heart-rending songs in tones that were foreign to the Eastern and Western traditions. Armenian singer Charles Aznavour sang the “Ave Maria.”
During the prayer, John Paul II recalled that, in 1915, Pope Benedict XV made a courageous appeal to the Ottoman sultan in defense of “the sorely afflicted Armenian people brought to the brink of annihilation.”
Before arriving at the memorial, the Holy Father paid a courtesy visit to President Robert Kotcharian in the Presidential Palace. They had a private meeting. Then the Pope, accompanied by Apostolic Patriarch Karekin II, greeted Kotcharian´s principal collaborators.