Vatican City, May 13, 2016 / 15:45 pm
Pope Francis’ visit to Armenia this summer comes at a poignant time in the country’s history.
The Holy Father’s June 24-26 visit comes just after the close of the 100-year anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and during the Year of Mercy, a significance not lost on the Armenian people, said Mikayel Minasyan, Armenian Ambassador to the Holy See.
The Armenian people have learned to be strong because of their history, Minasyan said, referring to the genocide that occurred at the hands of the Ottoman empire during and after World War I and which left as many as 1.5 million Armenians dead.
“It’s strong to remember their own history, it’s strong to understand their own history, it’s strong to accept their own history,” he said of his people.
The centenary anniversary has been a time to recognize the healing and progress that has been made, he added.
“(T)he Armenians made the whole world see what it is to overcome an injustice. They gave the possibility to the world to understand what a genocide is, what the denial of a genocide is. Let’s not forget that the term ‘genocide’ was created above all based on the study of the Armenian genocide.”
The ambassador also said the year has been a time to recognize everyone who has supported the Armenians and raised awareness of the genocide, including Pope Francis, who has recognized the genocide as religiously motivated.
During Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday on April 12, 2015, Pope Francis referred to the mass killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks starting in 1915, as a genocide, a term used in a common declaration signed by both Saint John Paul II and Supreme Armenian Patriarch Karekin II in 2001. That day, Francis offered the Mass for faithful of the Armenian rite in commemoration of the centenary of the “Metz Yeghern,” or Armenian “martyrdom,” which is historically held to have started April 24, 1915.