Armenian lobbyists say that Pope Francis angering Turkey over recognition of the Armenian genocide sets the stage for President Obama to keep a 2008 campaign promise — or not.
“The facts are undeniable,” Obama said in a Jan. 19, 2008, statement. “An official policy that calls on diplomats to distort the historical facts is an untenable policy. As a senator, I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106), and as president I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
That’s never happened.
In a Mass marking the 100th anniversary of the killing of 1.5 million Armenians, the pope said, “In the past century our human family has lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies. The first, which is widely considered ‘the first genocide of the twentieth century,’ struck your own Armenian people, the first Christian nation, as well as Catholic and Orthodox Syrians, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Greeks. Bishops and priests, religious, women and men, the elderly and even defenseless children and the infirm were murdered.”
“It is necessary, and indeed a duty, to honour their memory, for whenever memory fades, it means that evil allows wounds to fester,” the pontiff said. “Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it!”
The Turkish foreign ministry, in addition to recalling its ambassador to the Vatican and summoning the Holy See ambassador in Turkey for consultations, issued a lengthy statement accusing Pope Francis of practicing “discrimination between the sufferings by solely emphasizing the sufferings of the Christians and foremost the Armenians.”
“With a selective point of view, he ignored the tragedies that befell on the Turkish and Muslim people who had lost their lives in World War I. During this Holy Mass, history was instrumentalized for political aims… Given his statements of today, we understand that Pope Francis is under the influence of the Armenian narrative which persists to derive enmity from history instead of leaving a legacy of friendship and peace to the future generations.”
“…What we expected from a divine rank as the Holy See is not to give credit to the one-sided interpretations of historical events and to religious discrimination but rather to support peace and joint approaches that will ensure a global language which rejects ethnic and religious discrimination, especially nowadays when our world is facing confrontations, divisions and intolerance.”
Turkey has paid D.C. lobbyists handsomely over the years to work against the Armenian Genocide resolutions that surface each Congress. Turkey has recalled its ambassador in a huff whenever the bill has made it out of committee.
Earlier this month, Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.) led a letter with 48 bipartisan colleagues calling on Obama to recognize the killings as genocide in his expected April 24 statement.
“A clear recognition of the Armenian Genocide, particularly in this Centennial year, would affirm that the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence,” the lawmakers wrote. “A principled presidential statement clearly citing the Armenian Genocide would help strengthen condemnations of the past, and recognize the important relationship the United States shares with Armenia today.”
Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian said the pope’s “historic sermon on the Armenian Genocide sets the stage for President Obama to honor his own pledge to recognize this horrific crime.”
“By openly rejecting Turkey’s gag-rule against the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, President Obama would, with a bold stroke, end a truly shameful era of complicity in Ankara’s efforts to deny the truth and obstruct justice for this crime,” Hamparian said. “Such a principled position by President Obama would put America back on the right side of this issue, while also advancing U.S. regional interests in fostering a better future for Armenian-Turkish relations based upon an honest reckoning with the past.”
In a separate statement, Hamparian stressed that “Turkey underestimates, at its own risk, the power of our worldwide movement – a profoundly moral movement inspired by truth and driven by our shared hope for a fair and enduring peace based on a just international resolution of the Armenian Genocide.”