WASHINGTON — On Monday, September 7, Pope Francis celebrated Mass, in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence in Vatican City, with the recently-elected Armenian Patriarch of Cilicia, Gregory Peter XX Ghabroyan, as well as with the Bishops of Synod of the Apostolic Armenian Catholic Church and the Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri.
During the Mass, Pope Francis spoke about the persecution of Christians throughout history, specifically referencing the 1915 Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey, and drew parallels to Christian persecution today in the Middle East.
“Today I would like, on this day of our first Eucharist, as brother Bishops, dear brother Bishops and Patriarch and all of you Armenian faithful and priests, to embrace you and remember this persecution that you have suffered, and to remember your holy ones, your many saints who died of hunger, in the cold, under torture, [cast] into the wilderness only for being Christians,” Pope Francis said.
Pope Francis referred to the Armenian Genocide as “One of many great persecutions: that of the Armenian people,” and that Armenia was “The first nation to convert to Christianity: the first.” “They were persecuted just for being Christians,” he said. “The Armenian people were persecuted, chased away from their homeland, helpless, in the desert.”
“We now, in the newspapers, hear the horror of what some terrorist groups do, who slit the throats of people just because [their victims] are Christians. We think of the Egyptian martyrs, recently, on the Libyan coast, who were slaughtered while pronouncing the name of Jesus,” the Pontiff said, pointing out that “this happens before the whole world, with the complicit silence of many powerful leaders who could stop it.”
The Assembly strongly supports Pope Francis’ call on the international community to take action. Indeed, the ongoing refugee crisis caused by the wars in Syria and Iraq must be addressed and could have been prevented. Equally troubling are the renewed attacks on the Kurds and threats to Armenians in Turkey. “We must turn these districts into Armenian and Kurdish cemeteries,” Turkish ultra-nationalists chanted in the Armenian populated district of Istanbul this week.