The Vatican’s spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has cleared the air over the Pope’s use of the term ‘genocide’ during his speech at the Armenian presidential palace on Friday to describe the mass killings of Armenians in 1915.
“The references to the past tragedies of the history are done not to renew wounds and conflicts but are done only, only, only to help to build the basis for the mutual understanding, dialogue and reconciliation. Only for this,” Father Lombardi told reporters at a press conference in Gyumri.
“What the Pope has in mind also in taking part to the memory of the Armenian nation and people is to build a future of peace, of reconciliation, mutual understanding and harmony. This has to be totally clear,” Father Lombardi stressed.
The Pontiff on Friday used the term ‘genocide’ for the second time to refer to the mass killings of Armenians during the first world war – a situation he said should “never again” happen.
Turkey’s deputy prime minister Nurettin Canikli has however described the Pontiff’s choice of words as “very unfortunate” adding that “it is unfortunately possible to see all the reflections and traces of Crusader mentality in the actions of the papacy and the Pope”.
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The Vatican has however hit back at Turkey’s depiction of the Pope as having a ‘Crusader mentality’.
Father Lombardi told reporters: “The Pope is on no crusade. He is not trying to organise wars or build walls but he wants to build bridges” adding that the Pontiff “has not said a word against the Turkish people”.
The Pope’s use of ‘genocide’ last year to describe the mass killings of Armenians between 1915 and 1917 infuriated Turkey which recalled its ambassador to the Vatican and kept him away for 10 months.
Turkey accepts that many Armenian Christians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during the first world war, but disputes the 1.5 million death toll put out by Armenia. Turkey pegs the casualties at 300,000.
Ankara has also denied the killings were systematically orchestrated and constitute a genocide adding that many Muslim Turks also died at the time.