For the Armenian people who have long had to suffer the world’s indifference to the attempt to extinguish them a century ago, there was a moment last April when all the frustrations and tribulations of that sad history seemed to wash away.
In the center of the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis celebrated a Mass with the top prelates of the Armenian Church to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Near the end of the Mass, the Pope called on the world to recognize what had happened to the Armenians in 1915 was indeed a Genocide — and then, in a transcendent gesture, stood with his hands cupped in the traditional pose of accepting the offering as the Lord’s Prayer was sung in Armenian.
It was a stunning moment for all Armenians. Practically every one of us lost a loved one in those massacres by the Ottoman Turks in 1915, and the losses have grown heavier during the ensuing century because of the lack of worldwide official recognition to that mass murder, no less justice from Turkey.
While many governments spurred by the historical record have adopted resolutions acknowledging the Genocide, three countries towards whom Armenians have looked the most — Turkey, the United States and Israel — have failed to follow the Pope’s powerful words.
Turkey’s reasons are the most specious. It contends that the more than one million Armenians who were killed were not victims of an intentional campaign by the Ottoman regime but rather casualties of World War I. Yet the International Association of Genocide Scholars unanimously passed a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide in 1997 and sent a letter to the Turkish Prime Minister urging recognition.