Pope speaks of Armenian massacre and Christian persecution

2016-06-24 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday met with Armenia’s political, diplomatic and civil society representatives, recalling both the genocide suffered by the nation a century ago and the suffering of Christians around the world today.

The Pope’s poignant words came at the presidential palace in Yerevan on the first day of his pastoral visit to the country.

Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:

 

As he greeted the Armenian president, Serzh Sargsyan, and the nation’s political leaders, Pope Francis spoke of the rich history and natural beauty of Armenia, believed by some to be the location of the biblical garden of Eden.

He talked of the depth of faith in this first nation to adopt Christianity as its state religion, but he also spoke of the drama and tragedy that Armenians have endured throughout the past centuries. In particular he recalled last year’s centenary of the massacre, known as Metz Yeghern or Great Evil when over a million and a half Armenians were killed by Ottoman military forces. He called it a tragedy, made possible by twisted racial, ideological or religious aims, and, as he did a year ago, he departed from his prepared text to add the words “that genocide”, a word which Turkish authorities continue to deny.

Today, the Pope continued, Christians – perhaps even more than at the time of the first martyrs - experience discrimination and persecution for the mere fact of professing their faith. It is essential, he insisted, that political leaders work to end such suffering and conflict, protecting especially the victims of aggression, while promoting justice and sustainable development.

The Pope concluded by urging Armenians to do all they can to promote unity and overcome tensions with their neighbours, favouring full religious freedom, respect for minorities and the full participation of all in the life of society.

(from Vatican Radio)