Pope to visit Armenia after irking Turkey with 'genocide' label

June 22, 2016 13:14
1 minute read.

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis visits Armenia this weekend and will try to avoid reigniting a diplomatic dispute with Turkey after his branding of the 1915 mass killings of Armenians as a genocide infuriated Ankara last year.

During the three-day trip starting on Friday, he will pray at Tzitzernakaberd, known in Armenia as the "Genocide Memorial and Museum" but which the official Vatican program for the trip calls "a memorial of the massacres."

He will have to tread delicately there and in half a dozen other addresses to political and religious leaders.

Last year Francis described the killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians in World War One as "the first genocide of the 20th century," days before commemorations to mark the centenary of the massacres in April.

Muslim Turkey promptly recalled its envoy to the Vatican, Mehmet Pacaci, and he stayed away for 10 months, an eternity in diplomatic terms.

Turkey accepts that many Christian Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War One, but it disputes the figures and denies that the killings were systematically orchestrated and constitute a genocide. It also says many Muslim Turks perished at that time.

In the run-up to Francis's trip, the Vatican has been at pains to avoid the G-word.

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