Diane Montagna wrote today about the pope and his staff‘s seeming reluctance to use the word “genocide” to describe the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks 100 years ago. Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. explained that the use of the term ‘Medz Yeghern’ was much stronger than “genocide,” especially when talking to Armenians:
“Why is there an obsession about using the word ‘genocide’ and asking all the questions about this? I will respond with the words of my Armenian friend who is here in the front row … who when we were discussing this, said that when one uses the expression ‘Medz Yeghern’ which is the Armenian expression, it is even stronger than what the term ‘genocide’ conveys.” “Therefore,” Fr. Lombardi continued, “I prefer to use this expression precisely so as not to be entrapped by questions that do nothing but revolve around the use of one word. And so I focus on the substance.”
We often, perhaps too often, become so concerned with phrasing that we ignore meaning. We try to find significance in the words and miss the message. Does it matter what word you use when the subject is indescribably evil? What do you think?