Russian Church Denies Denying: Patriarch Kirill says position on Armenian Genocide unchanged

Russian Church Denies Denying: Patriarch Kirill says position on Armenian Genocide unchanged


Their Holinesses Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill and Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II laying flowers at the Genocide Memorial.(Archive)

In response to some angry reactions in Armenia to Russian Patriarch Kirill’s controversial comments on the treatment of Christians in the Empire, the Russian Orthodox Church has clarified that its supreme leader did not thereby deny the 1915 Armenian Genocide.

In a statement to Armenian media passed through a representative of the Armenian Apostolic Church a spokesman for Kirill gave assurances that the Russian Orthodox Church continues to believe that the World War I-era massacres of some 1.5 million Armenians constituted genocide.

In a January 7 interview to Russia’s state television Patriarch Kirill discussed the plight of shrinking Christian communities in the Middle East, describing the atrocities being committed by Islamist militants against Christians in the region as genocide.

He controversially said that “nothing similar to the current events had ever happened in the Islamic world.”
“Take, for example, the Turkish, Ottoman Empire. Yes, there were Christian minorities there but they were not exterminated,” Kirill said.

The remarks elicited angry reactions in Armenian social media and also prompted at least one political party to call on the Armenian government and church officials to seek clarification from the Russian side.

Rev. Vahram Melikyan, an Armenian Apostolic Church spokesperson at the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin, later published a statement released to the Armenian media by Patriarch Kirill’s spokesman, Rev. Alexander Volkov.

Volkov insisted that in his remarks Kirill referred to only some periods of Ottoman history that saw “relative security and stability in the lives of religious minorities.”

“The absence of such order -- both in the Ottoman Empire 100 years ago and in contemporary Iraq, Syria and Libya -- always leads to tragic events,” he said. “The position of our Church on the Armenian genocide has been repeatedly and clearly expressed in numerous statements and messages of the Patriarch.”

High-level Russian Orthodox clerics took part in the 2015 events in Armenia that marked the centennial of the Armenian Genocide. Kirill himself prayed and laid flowers at the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial to Armenian Genocide victims in Yerevan when he visited Armenia back in 2010.