International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Pope recalls 100 year old Armenian genocide at mass


Pope Francis, in a mass designed to honor the 100 years since mass murder, decided to quote from a past Pope and Armenian leader about the Armenian atrocity, “The first, which is widely considered the first genocide of the twentieth century, struck your own Armenian people.” Here he made his views clear, even while using the words of another. The estimated 1.5 million Armenians that were killed occurred during the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

During the mass, Pope Francis gave Armenian leaders a chance to speak, in what some deem an important strategically move. He also declared, “It is necessary, and indeed a duty, to honor their memory, for whenever memory fades, it means that evil allows wounds to fester.” This acknowledgement was designed to bring more attention to Christians in the East, and while it is unlikely conflict will arise between Turkey and Armenia, there may be some concerns in the Vatican. In order to explain the Pope’s statements about the killings, the ambassador of the Vatican to the Turkish capital has been summoned to the foreign ministry.


Armenians have been waiting for the day that the atrocity will officially be called a genocide. While many countries, including Italy, have recognized it as such, Turkey still refuses to do so. The hopes are for this year on Remembrance Day, April 24th, that the President will use the language that many Armenians have been waiting decades to hear.


6 responses to “Pope recalls 100 year old Armenian genocide at mass

  1. tlunn April 12, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    It’s interesting to see that such a high-profile figure has chosen to directly address such a controversial issue. While it is obvious why, from a religious standpoint, he would refer to it as a genocide, it is also clearly one by essentially any workable definition of genocide. Turkey’s response will be interesting. While Turkey has insisted innocence, there might be reason to chance. While President Erdogan has been rather conservative on many issues in past year, Turkey’s desires to strengthen ties to the EU and west as a whole might prevail in this case. While an official statement proclaiming the atrocity a genocide would be better than nothing at all, the reasoning behind doing so will greatly affect whether or not it will help reconciliation efforts or just be putting a bandage over a gaping wound.

  2. jdelduca April 12, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    I am impressed that Pope Francis addressed the Armenian genocide and furthermore asked the international community to recognize it as such. In an article written by TIME it states that Francis “called on all heads of state and international organizations to recognize the truth of what transpired and oppose such crimes without ceding to ambiguity or compromise”. I respect that the Pope Francis took initiative in engaging the international community in the conversation and rhetoric that needs to develop on the Armenian genocide. Not surprising, Turkey responded by immediately summoning the Vatican ambassador to express its displeasure. I understand Turkey’s resistance to speaking about the Armenian genocide due to its potential destabilization of the state, however they cannot keep denying that it took place. There have been mixed reactions by citizens in Istanbul to the Pope’s address of the matter. Someone who was interviewed mentioned how he did not support the use of the word genocide by the Pope because of the Pope’s great religious position with millions of followers. It will be interesting to see the developments surrounding the rhetoric of the Armenian genocide as time goes on.


  3. Alana Tiemessen April 13, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    It’s also interesting in comparison to other unrecognized “genocides” of the world. How have/would the US, Canada, and Australia reacted to the deaths of aboriginal communities being called genocide, I wonder?

  4. claregeyer April 14, 2015 at 10:15 am

    While the Pope’s decision to align himself with the millions of Armenians that lost their lives a century ago was admirable (and certainly the right thing to do, in my opinion), I wonder how it will affect Turkey’s actions towards ISIS. In November of last year, during a trip to Turkey, Pope Francis called on Muslim leaders to oppose the actions of ISIS against Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq, Syria, and Libya.

    “As religious leaders, we are obliged to denounce all violations against human dignity and human rights,” Pope Francis told Turkey’s top religious officials. “As such, any violence which seeks religious justification warrants the strongest condemnation because the omnipotent is the God of life and peace.” Turkey responded to Francis’ trip by promising him their opposition to fundamentalism and the actions of ISIS, but since the withdrawal of their ambassador to the Vatican it will be interesting to see if they maintain this promise. While I doubt that Turkey will withdraw from actions against the Islamic State, I believe that they will try to distance themselves from Pope Francis and the Catholic Church, instead aligning their actions with the interests of the Western coalition.

    In thinking about Professor Tiemessen’s question regarding potential reactions of the US, Canada, or Australia, I believe that these governments would have reacted very similarly to Turkey. No one wants to be accused of genocide, and relatively strong Western countries (especially the US) would most likely react to accusations like these by the symbolic withdrawal of their recognition of these states.

  5. ep2015 April 18, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    Today there was an opinion piece in the New York Times, written by an Armenian-American named Meline Toumani, titled “We Armenians Shouldn’t Let Genocide Define Us”. Although I think the author underestimates the potential positive and restorative benefits of acknowledgment of the genocide as such, she does bring up some important points.
    The author writes about being raised in an environment where Turks were labeled as murderers, Armenians were the oppressed and wronged, and the recognition of genocide was the ultimate goal. Toumani ultimately questions what happens to Armenian culture when all is focused on the atrocities of a century ago. She explains, “when it came to intellectual life, we had lost the freedom to ask questions and pursue ideas that were not framed by the political project of genocide recognition.” She continues to explain how the genocide has consumed Armenian identity, leaving it nearly impossible to differentiate the two. This “unity of purpose”, although powerful, leaves many focused on the past and ultimately begs the questions: at what point is the search for acknowledgment causing more harm than good?
    Toumani ends by stating, “Too much of the last century was spent countering Turkey’s elaborate machinery of denial. ‘Whether’ was the dominant question; ‘what now?’ got scant attention”. Although I strongly acknowledge the potential power of acknowledgment, it is clear from Toumani’s opinions that the quest for public recognition can ultimately swallow the past Armenian identity, the exact opposite of the end goal. As the Armenian genocide gains attention and more recognition (thank you Kim Kardashian and Pope Francis), this may be less prevalent, but it is still an important question to ask. Will recognition of the past always offer enough benefits to pursue it, or is there some sort of an expiration date when the costs will outweigh the benefits?

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