The Pope and the papacy “still have traces of Crusader mentality”. Turkey’s deputy prime minister Nurettin Caniklisaid this at a press conference on Saturday 25 June, commenting on Francis’ words upon his arrival in Armenia the previous day. Readers will recall that in his address to Armenian political and diplomatic authorities and the country’s president, Francis used the word “genocide” again when talking about the massacre that took place a century ago. It was not used in the text of the prepared speech but he added spontaneously.
Responding to a journalist’s question, Canikli criticised the Pope’s pronouncement, stating that they have no bearing on the historical truth. “First of all, the Pope’s statement is very unfortunate.” The deputy prime minister compared what happened to Brexit. “The Pope’s actions and his papacy still show traces of a crusader mentality. His comments are biased and have no bearing on the truth.” Canikli added that the truth “regarding the so-called ‘genocide’ is known to everyone, even Armenians themselves”.
The deputy prime minister observed that the German parliament’s recent approval of a motion that recognises the Armenian genocide has no historical basis but is purely politically motivated. Turkey, he recalled, denies theer was a genocide but recognises that there were losses on both sides during World War I.
Although these are strong words used by Turkey’s deputy prime minister, for the time being, they are in no way comparable to the action Turkey took in 2015, straight after the commemoration of the centenary of the Armenian genocide in St. Peter’s Basilica, presided over by Pope Francis in the presence of Catholicos Karekin II and Armenia’s president Serzh Sargsyan. The reaction was far harsher a year ago, on 12 April: the Apostolic Nuncio to Turkey, Antonio Lucibello was summoned by the government and the Turkish ambassador to the Holy See was calle dback to Ankara. Turkey’s foreign affairs minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said the Pope’s words revealed “discrimination against Muslims and Turks in relation to Christians”. Events culminated the next day, on 13 April, with the Turkish ambassador to the Vatican, Mehmet Paçaci, issuing a statement in which he spoke of “an unacceptable manipupolitical instrumentalisation” on Francis’ part, which is “questionable from all points of view, based on prejudice, distorts history and focuses the pain suffered in Anatolia during the unique circumstances of World War I, on the faithful of one single religion.”
Clearly, the deputy prime minister’s words, which were also pronounced during a press conference, are not comparable to the serious diplomatic tensions that arose in 2015 and were only resolved several months later.