Turkish officials have accused Pope Francis of “lies and slander” after the pontiff made reference to the Armenian genocide in his recently concluded pastoral journey to Armenia, saying that his actions betrayed “a crusader mentality.”
In an official statement Monday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry lamented the Pope’s visit to Armenia’s “genocide monument,” while also criticizing his “unfortunate statements” and “unacceptable references to the 1915 incidents.”
Turkey said that Francis made statements “proven to be lies and slander” which revealed “Pope Francis’ unconditional commitment to the Armenian narrative.”
On Friday, Francis said that the Armenian genocide “was the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century, 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.”
This wasn’t the first time that the Pope spoke of the massacre as a genocide. In April 2015, for the centennial commemoration of the event, the Pope declared that the Ottoman Empire’s slaughter of Armenians was “genocide,” a statement that led Ankara to recall its ambassador to the Holy See for a period of 10 months.
Shortly afterward, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that he “condemned” Pope Francis for use of the term “genocide” when referring to the Turkish slaughter of 1.5 million Armenian Christians between 1915 and 1917.
“Whenever politicians, religious functionaries assume the duties of historians, then delirium comes out, not fact,” Erdoğan said at a meeting of the Turkish Exporters Assembly.
“I want to warn the pope to not repeat this mistake and condemn him,” he said.
During a Mass with representatives from the Armenian Catholic church last April, Pope Francis referred to the 1915 event as an “immense and senseless slaughter” and called it “the first genocide of the twentieth century,” a conviction he reaffirmed this past weekend.
In April 2006, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio publicly invited Turkey to acknowledge the genocide and again in 2011 described the genocide as the “gravest crime of Ottoman Turkey against the Armenian people and the entire humanity.”
On Saturday, Turkey’s vice premier, Nurettin Canikli, adopted the language of the Islamic State in saying that the Pope had demonstrated a “crusader mentality” during his visit to Armenia.
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