International media predict the Pope’s upcoming trip to Armenia – and specifically his announcement of a visit to a memorial in capital Yerevan to the victims of the Ottoman-era genocide – will come as another blow for Turkey.
Official Yerevan and the Vatican late last week released details of Pope Francis’ visit to Armenia on June 24-26 that will also include his meeting with His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, in Holy Echmiadzin, as well as travel to Gyumri, Armenia’s second largest city in the northwestern Shirak province that has one of the largest Catholic communities in the predominantly Orthodox Christian country.
According to the press service of President Serzh Sargsyan, who will also meet with Francis during the latter’s visit, in Gyumri a Divine Liturgy will be offered in Vardanants Square and the Pope will also visit Our Lady of Armenia Convent of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Gyumri, then the Seven Wounds St. Mary Church of the Diocese of Shirak of the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church and the Holy Martyrs Armenian Catholic Cathedral. On June 25 evening, an outdoor Ecumenical Service and Peace Prayer will be held in Yerevan – in Republic Square.
Before that, on the morning of June 25, Pope Francis will visit Tsitsernakaberd, the Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex and Museum in Yerevan. There, the Pontiff will again pay tribute to some 1.5 million Armenians who were massacred by Ottoman Turks during the First World War. He already described the massacres as “the first genocide of the 20th century” during a landmark April 2015 mass at the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica dedicated to the centenary of the Genocide.
Turkey then accused Pope Francis of “distorting history” and recalled its ambassador to the Vatican in protest.
The Daily Mail writes that the head of the Roman Catholic Church again risks angering Turkey by visiting the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan.
“It is thought the visit could fuel more tension and strain the Vatican’s diplomatic relations with Turkey,” the leading British newspaper predicts.
The late Pope John Paul II prayed at Tsitsernakabert and recognized the Armenian genocide in a joint declaration with Karekin II that was adopted during his historic 2001 visit to Armenia. Francis is also due to sign a joint declaration with Karekin II.