ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey says Pope Francis’s recognition of the Ottoman-era killings of Armenians as genocide during his visit to Armenia won’t help efforts to establish peace and stability in the Caucasus region.
A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement said Monday that the pope had again “disappointed” the Turkish people with remarks and accused him of “bias” and “religion-based discrimination” against Turkey.
Francis has said the 1915 slaughter by Ottoman Turks of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians constituted planned “genocide” during his three-day visit.
Turkey rejects the term genocide, saying the death toll cited by historians is inflated and that people died on both sides of the conflict. When Francis first used it last year, Turkey recalled its ambassador for 10 months and accused the pope of spreading lies.
While Francis was still in Armenia, pro-government newspapers branded him the “Armenian Pope,” and the country’s deputy prime minister told reporters that his choice of words was “baseless” and accused him of a “crusader mentality,” meaning a Christian attack on Muslims.
Pope Francis had previously referred to the massacres of Armenians under Ottoman Turks as a “genocide” during a ceremony in Rome last year marking the 100th anniversary of those events, which the Turks insist were not a planned campaign of extermination but rather the result of violence generated by World War I in which there were casualties on all sides.
During an in-flight news conference on the way back to Rome from Yerevan on Sunday, Francis insisted that “genocide” is the accepted term for the Armenian massacres in his native Argentina, saying, “I brought the word with me to Rome.”
The pontiff also said that having used it before, it would have been “very strange” not to do so when he was actually in Armenia.
(Crux Staff also contributed to this report.)