Ankara, April 14, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Manolis Kostidis
Tensions are rising caused between the Vatican and Ankara due to the recognition of the Armenian, which Turkey denies, by Pope Francis. In a special liturgy officiated by the Pope for Armenian Catholics on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the massacre of the Armenians, the Pontiff spoke of the “first genocide of the 20th century”.
“Our humanity, in the last century, lived three unbearable tragedies. The first, that is usually considered as the first genocide of the 20th century, struck the Armenian people, the first Christian nation. Bishops, priests, clergy, men, women, elderly people, even defenseless children and patients were murdered”, the Pope added.
The Pontiff sent a message to Turkey, which does not accept that the extermination of the Armenians was a matter of a systematic governmental action. “When you hide or deny evil, it is like leaving blood dripping from a wound without healing it. It is necessary to honor the memory of the victims because when there is no memory it means that evil still keeps the wound open”, Pope Francis said.
Ankara reacted strongly to those statements with the Foreign Ministry revoking the Turkish ambassador to the Vatican for consultations in Ankara. At the same time the Vatican ambassador was summoned to the Ministry to give explanations.
Ahmet Davutoglu described the statements “biased and inappropriate”. “The Turkish prime minister said that “what we expect from religious leaders is to call for peace and to distance themselves from the Islamophobia that is prevalent in Europe”.
It is not the first time that the Vatican makes reference to the Armenian genocide as similar statements had been done by Pope John Paul in 2001.
Turkey is concerned about the commemoration for the 100 years of the genocide
The main reason for the strong reaction of Ankara is that April 24 markes the 100 years from the day that according to the Armenians began the genocide of Armenians. On that day in Yerevan will take place large scale memorials with leaders of many countries invited. Among the participants is expected to be French President Francois Hollande.
Turkey, in an effort to downplay the day is organising on the same day the commemorations for the victims of the battle of the Dardanelles in 1915. The official Turkish policy is to deny the existence of a genocide and argues that during the era of the Ottoman Empire there was a violent displacement of the Armenian population from the provinces of the East, but there were no efforts for the systematic extermination of the population.
According to many historians, 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives in 1915. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2014 had in a statement on April 24 issued a special message for the first time in the history of Turkey and had referred to the events of the time.
“It is a human duty to understand and sympathise with the will of the Armenians to commemorate the sufferings at that time… We want Armenians who lost their lives in the conditions of the early 20th century to rest in peace and we express our condolences to their grandchildren”, he had written in his message.