Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Wednesday 22 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Maurice and the Theban Legion
home iconChurch
line break icon

Francis’ visit to a forgotten Armenia

Vatican Insider - published on 06/24/16

This morning Francis sets off on his 14th international visit, a trip to a forgotten country: Armenia. This was the first country to become Christian and is still being crushed by the shadows of a horrific past, the systematic killing of one and a half million people at the hands of the Turks a hundred years ago. But even today, danger’s just around the corner because of the tensions that continue to exist on the border with Turkey and with Azerbaijan on the other side. The region of Nagorno-Karabakh (the majority of the population here is Armenian) remains the subject of an unresolved dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan. It is precisely for this reason that half of the state budget goes to the Ministry of Defence and to arms which are used to protect the border. The country is suffering at the moment, also as a result of the economic crisis.

Pope Francis’ friendship with the Armenian people goes way back: Argentina’s Armenian community found a supporter in the Archbishop of Buenos Aires. The purpose of his visit is mainly ecumenical: he wants to show his closeness and collaboration with the Armenian Apostolic Church led by Catholicos Karekin II. The fact that the Pope has been invited to stay in the Apostolic Palace in Etchmiadzin, the Armenian equivalent of the Vatican. Francis will spend his three-day and two night-long stay in Karekin II’s palace, as John Paul II did during his visit 15 years ago.

One of the most emotional parts of his trip will definitely be his visit to the Tzitzernakaberd Memorial Complex on Saturday morning. The memorial commemorates the “Great Evil”, in other words the Armenian genocide of 1915. In April 2015, Francis decided to mark the centenary of the massacre, with a celebration in St. Peter’s.  On that occasion, although he was quoting the joint declaration signed by John Paul II and Karekin II in 2001, he described the Armenian experience as “the first genocide of the 20th century”. These words sparked serious diplomatic tensions between the Vatican and Turkey. Unlike John Paul II, Benedict XVI never used the word “genocide”.

A Joint Declaration signed by Francis and Karekin II had been announced for Sunday, at the end of the Pope’s trip. But in recent days, Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi said this was “currently” not on the agenda. It is likely that parties were unable to agree on the term to use to refer to the “Great Evil”. The Armenian authorities had been hoping for an outright condemnation of Turkey’s denial of the genocide. But with everything that is going on in the Middle East at the moment, not to mention the refugee crisis, Francis was not keen on adding fuel to the fire: this visit is of a religious, not political nature. The Armenian massacre will be commemorated first and foremost with prayer. 

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
Esteban Pittaro
Argentine “Mother Teresa” was a former model and actress who embr...
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
Our Lady of La Salette
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady of La Salette can give us hope in darkness
Philip Kosloski
Pray this Psalm when you successfully recover from an illness
Philip Kosloski
An alternative Hail Mary to Our Lady of Sorrows
Cerith Gardiner
12 Habits of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati that every young adult...
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.