Pope Francis on Friday denounced the mass killing of Armenians a century ago by Ottoman forces as “genocide”, risking Turkey’s fury as he met Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian.
“Sadly this tragedy, this genocide, was the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century,” the pontiff said at the presidential palace in Yerevan.
When Pope Francis last used the term in the Vatican in 2015, on the centenary of the killings, Ankara angrily recalled its envoy from the Holy See for just under a year.
Francis said the killings had been “made possible by twisted racial, ideological or religious aims that darkened the minds of the tormentors even to the point of planning the annihilation of entire peoples.”
The pontiff meanwhile said he hoped that “humanity will learn from those tragic experiences” to prevent a “return to such horrors.”
“Today Christians in particular, perhaps even more than at the time of the first martyrs, in some places experience discrimination and persecution for the mere fact of professing their faith,” he said.
Armenians have long sought international recognition for the 1915-1917 killings as genocide, which they say left some 1.5 million of their people dead.
Turkey — the Ottoman Empire’s successor state — angrily rejects the term “genocide”, a rguing that it was a collective tragedy in which equal numbers of Turks and Armenians died.