The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) commended and offered its gratitude toward Pope Francis, who delivered a mass marking the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and who condemned the actions which led to the killing of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915. The Pope offered his comments on Divine Mercy Sunday, celebrated on the second Sunday of the Easter season, the Assembly’s website reports.
Calling the Armenian killings "the first genocide of the 20th century," Francis argued, "concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it."
"The Pope's acknowledgment is of profound spiritual significance for the Armenian people in recalling the victims of the Armenian Genocide. It tells the world that they have not been forgotten and that this crime against humanity cannot be denied. Pope Francis’ message helps bring greater awareness to this human rights issue, which is a key element in helping to prevent future genocides," said Armenian Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny.
Armenia's President Serzh Sargsyan, His Holiness Karekin II, and His Holiness Aram I, led the Armenian delegation at the historic service, which included Assembly Board of Trustees Co-Chair Anthony Barsamian, Board Member Oscar Tatosian, Assembly Life Trustee Noubar Afeyan, and Assembly Maine State Chair Gerard Kiladjian.
"Today in the presence of our Holy Fathers, Armenians from throughout the world celebrated the Armenian rite Divine Liturgy together with all Roman Catholics at St. Peter's Basilica. Pope Francis welcomed us and took the Holy Gospel of the Armenian Church and blessed us. He also elevated St. Gregory of Narek as the 36th Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church. We are humbled by these acts of Christian and paternal unity demonstrating his love and respect for us," stated Barsamian and Tatosian.
"Pope Francis affirmed that the Church of Rome condemns the denial of the Armenian Genocide and called on all heads of nations to formally recognize the crime of genocide committed against the Armenian people 100 years ago this April," added Barsamian and Tatosian.
It's not the first time a Pope has condemned the Armenian Genocide. In 2001, Pope John Paul II offered his own acknowledgement of the genocide and prayer for the victims. The Vatican itself has a long history on the events dating back to 1915.
"The Vatican archives hold extensive records on the Armenian genocide. The Catholic Church, under the papacy of Pope Benedict XV, interceded directly with the Ottoman government to halt the atrocities, and subsequently organized major humanitarian efforts on behalf of the survivors, indiscriminately, whether Catholic or apostolic, and all Armenian," said Dr. Rouben Adalian, an expert in genocide studies and the Director of the Armenian National Institute.