Following the Mass commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, where Pope Francis reaffirmed the Armenian Genocide, Catholicos Aram I was interviewed by the Vatican Insider newspaper.
The interview covered the following issues: The statement of His Holiness the Pope and Turkey’s reaction to the statement; the current situation in the Middle East; and Christian presence in the region.
Responding to the question of genocide, Catholicos Aram I said, “Historical research, including that of Turkish historians, affirm that the genocide of the Armenians was planned and executed by the Ottoman Empire because of Pan-Turanism, the nationalist ideology of the political party in power at that time–the Committee of Union and Progress, popularly known as the Young Turks. The Young Turks sought to unify the people of Turkish origin, politically, culturally and ethnically, not only in Turkey but also in the Middle East, Asia and beyond. The presence of Armenians in Cilicia and Western Armenia was a stumbling block to this ideology. In order to uproot them, the government instituted a process of genocide. The authorities implemented this program in three ways: First, they killed or imprisoned the Armenian lay and spiritual leadership. Second, they organized massacres in the regions densely inhabited by Armenians. Third, they deported the others to the Deir Zor desert (Syria) to die of hunger and disease.”
His Holiness continued, “ Today Turkey is distorting the facts by referring to our people’s demand for justice as religious incitement. We condemn this manipulation of facts. Armenians are demanding justice and the restitution of their rights. Our cause has nothing to do with religion. We have been living with Islam, following the principles of mutual respect and understanding, since the 7th Century and will continue this way of living together”
His Holiness Aram I concluded his interview by thanking Pope Francis for his courageous stand; he said, “The Church is the voice of justice and represents the will of the people. It does not pursue political goals.”