Pope plans to attend 2015 ceremony in Yerevan amid Ankara’s ’genocide’ protest

June 09, 2013, Sunday/ 17:26:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Leader of the world's Roman Catholics Pope Francis has stated that he wants to make a visit to the Armenian capital, Yerevan, to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1915 events, despite criticisms from Turkey after the pope had earlier labeled the events as “genocide” last week.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry released a statement on Saturday reacting to the statement by the pope calling the Armenian claims of genocide for the 1915 events at the hands of the Ottoman Empire the “first genocide of the 20th century.”

“What is required from the papacy is to contribute to world peace under the responsibility of the spiritual post it assumes instead of picking out hostilities from history,” the statement said, expressing disappointment over the “one-sided” comments by the pope about an event in the past.

The statement also mentioned that Antonio Lucibello, the Vatican ambassador in Ankara, had been summoned to the Foreign Ministry on Friday during which the Turkish side expressed its displeasure over the statement, calling the pope's remarks last week “unacceptable.” “The importance of the Vatican avoiding taking steps that could irreparably affect our bilateral relations was emphasized,” the statement also said, mentioning the foreign ministry's message to Lucibello.

“The first genocide of the 20th century was that of the Armenians,” Pope Francis was quoted as saying during his meeting with three Armenian religious functionaries who visited him at Vatican on June 3.

Meanwhile, during an official opening ceremony of the Armenian embassy in the Vatican last week, Pope Francis also stated that he wants to hold a religious ceremony in Yerevan during the 2015 ceremony, which would mark the 100th anniversary of the so-called “genocide.”

The pope's view on the 1915 events was already known before as he had said the killings of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire as the “gravest crime of Ottoman Turkey” in 2006 while he was a cardinal in Argentina.

“The pope's statements are one-sided,” said a Turkish official, who declined to be named, speaking to Today's Zaman. “It is not the papacy's authority to state an opinion on the Armenian claims of genocide, which should actually be commented on by historians and lawyers after examining the historic facts,” the official said.

The official stated that no discussion has yet been made on whether the pope's expected visit to the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in İstanbul would be rejected after his remarks. Pope Francis, who assumed his post in March this year, is expected to meet with the Fener patriarch as part of a traditional visit, just as his predecessors have done in the past.

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