Pope Benedict XVI
Catholic World News CWNews.com Nov. 30, 2006
Pope recalls Armenian genocide
Istanbul -Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) brought up the sensitive topic of the Armenian genocide-- although he did not mention it explicitly-- during a November 30 meeting with the Armenian Apostolic Patriarch of Istanbul, Mesrob II.
In his greeting to the patriarch, the Holy Father praised the Armenian people for their faithful witness to the Gospel, even under "truly tragic conditions, like those experienced in the past century." He was clearly alluding to the slaughter of Armenians under the Ottoman empire.
To this day the Turkish government refuses to acknowledge the genocidal campaign of 1915- 1917, in which an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed during massacres and forced marches, as the government of the "Young Turks" forced the relocation of an entire people. The Armenian Apostolic Church remains the largest Christian community in Turkey, but today numbers only about 50,000 faithful; in the late 19th century the number was several million. There are about 2 million members of the Church living in the country now known as Armenia.
In his remarks to Patriarch Mesrob, the Pope expressed regret over the divisions among the Christian faithful, repeating what he had said to the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew: that these divisions are "a scandal to the world" and a handicap to effective evangelization.
The Armenian Apostolic Church dates back to the year 506, when the Christian leaders of the region broke away from the Catholic Church over disagreements with the doctrines put forth by the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Those theological disputes have been resolved, and in 1996 Pope John Paul II (bio - news) and the former head of the Armenian Church, Karekin I, jointly signed a document affirming that the two churches have reached accord on the Christological issues that originally caused their separation.
Pope Benedict joined with the Armenian patriarch in a prayer service at the Armenian cathedral in Istanbul. Later he would meet with the city's grand rabbi, then end the day at a dinner with the Catholic bishops of Turkey.