Turkey angered by Pope Francis’ comments in Armenia

During his visit to Armenia, Pope Francis the denounced mass killings of the Ottoman Armenians in 1915 as “genocide”. Turkish officials responded with anger, accusing the Pope of being biased towards the Armenian narrative.

Pope_Francis_at_Vargihna

Pope Francis (en.wikipedia.org)

Pope Francis visited Armenia between the 24th and 26th of June. He visited  the genocide monument, and met with the Armenian President in the presidential palace in Yerevan. After meeting with President Serzh Sargsyan, the Pope denounced the events of 1915 that left many Armenians dead as “genocide”. The Pontiff stated that the Armenian genocide marked the start of a “sad series of great catastrophes of the last century.”

Pope Francis made a similar statement referring to the events of 1915 as genocide last year, in 2015.

Turkey’s response to Pope Francis’ comments

Turkish officials responded with anger, accusing Pope Francis of bias toward the Armenian narrative. Turkish Foreign ministry staff responded to the Pontiff’s comments in a written statement. In the text of the statement, Foreign ministry representatives claim the Pope demonstrated “unconditional commitment to the Armenian narrative” by visiting the genocide monument and by the statement he made. The ministry added that Pope Francis’ statement “does not comply with historical facts or the laws regarding the 1915 incident.”

Turkish Vice-Prime minister, Nuretin Cankili, accused Pope Francis and the papacy of “Crusader mentality”. The Vatican responded quickly to Cankili’s accusations, saying: “The Pope is not on a crusade. He is not trying to organize wars or build walls; he wants to build bridges”.

Today, Turkish officials announced that the capital city of Ankara will soon summon the chief of diplomatic mission of the Holy See in order to express its uneasiness with Pope Francis’ comments.

Turkey’s position on mass deaths of Armenians in 1915

Recently, the German parliament of Bundestag recognized events of 1915 as the Armenian genocide. Bundestag’s vote angered the people of Ankara and created a full blown diplomatic war between Turkey and Germany. Ankara’s announcements of recognizing the Namibia genocide and permitting German officials to enter Turkey followed the Bundestag’s vote.

Ankara denies the claims of Armenian genocide; Turkey’s position on the 1915 events is that deaths of Anatolia Armenians occurred when some of them joined forces with the invading Russians and rebelled against the government of the Ottoman Empire. Ankara claims that around 300,000 Armenians died during World War I – from 1915 to 1917.

On the other side, Armenia claims 1.5 million Armenians were killed in a genocide.

Dejan Scepanovic

based in Bosnia and Herzegovina. BA in political science. Columnist.