Fr. Ayvazian commended efforts aimed at reconciliation and emphasized that the Armenians are a people ready to forgive.
“The Swiss began with a soccer match between the Armenians and the Turks, thinking that soccer was a way to unite them,” he said. The Turkish president went, and the Armenian president also traveled to Turkey for the football match … I was telling our dear Father [Lombardi], as an Armenian: once, a group of diplomats from various countries came to visit me. One of them was a Turk. They arrived at the bishop’s residence, at my home. The Turk wouldn’t come in. He remained outside. One of the diplomats … told me: we have a Turkish diplomat outside who won’t dare enter an Armenian home. I said: ‘Why not? Why? What is it?’ So I went outside an invited him in.”
“For us Armenians, we are very sentimental,” he explained. “Today,” he told the young Turkish journalist, “if you pass through the capital of Armenia, you will find hundreds and hundreds of Turks who come, and they are very well taken care of and served, better than others. In the depths of the Armenian soul, there isn’t that hatred that people think we have.”
“What do we ask of Turkey? Only one thing. The whole world has seen and testifies to what happened. Enough with denying it.”
“Beloved,” he told the Turks through the presence of one young journalist, “you also have so, so many thousands of people who know, who even helped the Armenians, who killed Armenians, but it’s over. Let’s turn the page, we can live in peace. What do we ask? Only that you say: yes, this historical error happened. What is the problem with that?”
Fr. Lombardi follows comments which Pope Francis made last Saturday. The Pope made clear his views on using the term “martyrdom” over “genocide.”
“I don’t like it, and I want to say it clearly, I don’t like it when they speak of a genocide of Christians, for example in the Middle East: this is a reductionism, it is a reductionism,” he said, speaking at Rome’s Villa Nazareth, an apostolate that offers educational opportunities for young persons in need.
The Pope continued: “The truth is a persecution which leads Christians to fidelity, to consistency in their faith. Let’s not make a sociological reductionism of what is a mystery of the faith: martyrdom. Those 13 — I believe they were Coptic Christian Egyptian men, saints today, canonized by the Coptic Church — their throats slit on the coast of Libya: all of them died, saying: “Jesus, help me!”
There are various possible reasons why the Pope said this, especially in light of the fact that he has used the term ‘genocide’ in the past.
In April 2015, on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, Pope Francis — quoting Pope John Paul II — described the slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I as “the first genocide of the twentieth century,” and urged the international community to recognize it as such.
More to read: The Armenian saint who is our 36th Doctor of the Church
[Editor’s Note: Take the Poll – Genocide, Martyrdom, “Medz Yeghern” What Word Would You Choose?]
Diane Montagnais Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.