12 April 2015. In the morning, a special Mass was celebrated in Rome at St. Peter’s Papal Basilica to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. A number of clergy, members of the diplomatic corps, the President of Armenia and a large number of Armenians arriving from different continents attended the service. Quoting a declaration signed in 2001 by Pope John Paul II and Karekin Il, Pope Francis referred to the massacre of Armenians as the first genocide of the Twentieth Century.
Speaking in Armenian then continuing in English, His Holiness Aram I thanked His Holiness the Pope: “The Armenian Genocide,” said the Catholicos, “is undeniable and unforgettable. It is documented in the 20th century annals of history and deeply rooted in the collective memory of Armenians.”
Aram I went on to say, “This carefully planned act by Ottoman Turkey is a crime against humanity, which not only claimed one and a half million lives, but also destroyed and confiscated thousands of churches, monasteries, community centres and spiritual and cultural treasures. On the basis of international law, we reclaim justice, which is indeed the martyrs’ sacred legacy. Justice is a gift of God; violation of justice is a sin against God. The Armenian people for one hundred years have remained faithful to the legacy of its martyrs by demanding the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and reparation. This commitment for justice will continue with renewed faith and resolve.”
Addressing the Pope, Aram I said, “Today, Your Holiness has proclaimed Saint Gregory of Narek a doctor of the Church (Doctor Ecclesiae). We express our spiritual joy for this decision of the Catholic Church. In fact, St Narek is one of the great mystics of world Christendom. He is an outstanding theologian; whole theology is not an intellectual reflection on God, but a dialogue with God. With his BOOK OF LAMENTATIONS, which is a human cry for meaning and salvation, St Gregory of Narek remains our eternal contemporary.
His Holiness Aram I concluded by reminding all those at the Cathedral that the Vatican has never been indifferent to the Armenian Genocide. Pope Benedict XV wrote a strongly worded letter to the Sultan of Turkey protesting the ‘massive crime” perpetrated against Armenians. In the years following the Genocide, the Holy See extended its social and humanitarian aid to the Armenian people.
During the Memorial Service following the Mass, His Holiness Karekin II also spoke of the urgency to condemn and recognize the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian Catholic Patriarch Nerses Bedros also addressed the faithful.