Pope Francis visits Armenian genocide memorial, holds mass denouncing ‘denialist policies’ (VIDEO)

Pope Francis and Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II attend a ceremony in commemoration of Armenians killed by Ottoman forces during World War One at the Tzitzernakaberd Genocide Memorial in Yerevan, Armenia, June 25, 2016. © Maurizio Brambatti
Pope Francis once again reminded the world that the Armenian genocide should never be forgotten or repeated. He visited Yerevan’s Genocide Memorial Complex and held an open-air mass in Gyumri, at which he spoke out against “denialist policies” of Turkey.

Arriving in Tsitsernakaberd, the Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex and Museum in the capital, the Pope along with the president of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, proceeded to sign a memorial guest book.

“Here I pray with sorrow in my heart, so that a tragedy like this never again occurs, so that humanity will never forget and will know how to defeat evil with good,” Francis wrote in the memorial’s guest book. “May God protect the memory of the Armenian people. Memory should never be watered-down or forgotten. Memory is the source of peace and the future.”

With his head bowed, Francis laid a wreath at the memorial as he stood in silent prayer in front of an eternal flame, remembering the 1915 Ottoman Turks massacre of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915.

After planting a tree and meeting the descendants of Armenian orphans saved by Rome in the 1920s, the pontiff along with Catholicos of All Armenians, Karekin II, then traveled to Armenia’s second-largest city, Gyumri, where a mass was held.

“At the dawn of the 20th century, when our people were subjected to genocide, Gyumri as well felt the heavy blows of the Ottoman Empire’s devastating and invasive politics,” Francis said. “Today as well Gyumri faces closed borders as a witness to the genocide committed 100 years ago and to the continuous denialist policies.”

Back in Yerevan, with Mount Ararat - the symbol of Armenia - standing proudly in the background on Turkish territory, Francis called for Turkey and Armenia to reconcile, telling the crowd that even the worst pain “can become a seed of peace for the future.”

“May God bless your future and grant that the people of Armenia and Turkey take up again the path of reconciliation, and may peace also spring forth in Nagorno-Karabakh,” where Armenia has tensions with Azerbaijan, the pope said on Saturday.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church left no doubt that the massacre of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire was genocide in remarks he made on the first day of his three-day visit to Armenia.

“Sadly that tragedy, that 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,” Francis said on Friday afternoon.

Turkey responded to Pope Francis’ repeated references to the 1915 Armenian genocide, with Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli calling the statements “greatly unfortunate” which Ankara does not “take seriously.”

“The goal is to squeeze into Turkey in the corner,” said Canikli, accusing Francis of siding with European Union values. Such statement is “completely political” and dominated by the “mentality of the Crusades,” he said.

Canikli said that Francis’ statements were not “valid” as they lack objectivity of the events and that the pontiff’s interpretations of 1915 are “incompatible” with “facts” that “everyone knows, we all know, the whole world knows, Armenians know that the whole world knows.”