YEREVAN (Combined Sources) — Pope Francis returned to the Vatican after concluding a successful visit to Armenia, which delighted the small nation as well as Armenians around the world.
The world should never forget nor minimize the Ottoman-era slaughter of Armenians, Pope Francis declared Saturday, even as he urged Armenians to infuse their collective memory with love so they can find peace and reconcile with Turkey.
Turkey, though, did not budge. In its first reaction to the Roman Catholic Church leader’s recognition of the 1915 “genocide,” Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli called the comments “greatly unfortunate” and said they bore the hallmarks of the “mentality of the Crusades.”
Francis began his second day in Armenia by paying his respects at the country’s imposing genocide memorial and greeting descendants of survivors of the 1915 massacres, who have been emboldened by his comments upon arrival that the slaughter of Armenians a century ago was a planned “genocide” meant to annihilate an entire people.
The pontiff presented a wreath at the memorial and stood, head bowed, in silent prayer before an eternal flame as priests blessed him with incense and a choir sang haunting hymns.
“Here I pray with sorrow in my heart, so that a tragedy like this never again occurs, so that humanity will never forget and will know how to defeat evil with good,” Francis wrote in the memorial’s guest book. “May God protect the memory of the Armenian people. Memory should never be watered-down or forgotten. Memory is the source of peace and the future.”