Special to the Mirror-Spectator
Much has been made of the official Turkish reaction to statements made by Pope Francis during his visit to Armenia June 24-26. That hysterical response was as predictable as it was tasteless. One might take due note, but then move on.
The central thrust of the Pope’s visit was not his recognition of the genocide per se but his guidance on the course to follow to overcome the enduring adversary relationship between Armenians and Turkey, and beyond. His appeal to Armenia’s church and political leaders, as well as its people — especially the younger generation — was to mobilize those same spiritual and psychological resources which have made Armenian survival possible to intervene in the cause of peace and justice, not only there but throughout the world.
Although he is a head of state, it was with his moral authority as a spiritual leader that Pope Francis addressed issues of political import, which constituted a certain challenge to the Armenian people, whether in the Republic of Armenia or the Diaspora. In a video message sent on June 22 to the people of Armenia, and reported on the Vatican radio website, the Pontiff outlined the main themes of his mission. He would make this “visit to the first Christian country,” he said, as a pilgrim, who would “draw on the ancient wisdom of your people and to steep myself in the sources of your faith.” He appealed for perseverance, not to give up “even in the face of the repeated assaults of evil,” and pledged his support for efforts towards peace and reconciliation. In parallel he would seek to fuel the process towards unity of all Christians.
Peace, Reconciliation and Unity
In his entry in the guest book at the Tsitsernakaberd genocide memorial, Pope Francis wrote: “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…. 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.”