Ahead of Pope’s visit: A shame for Turkey to still deny the Armenian Genocide

“It is a shame that the Turkish government still denies the Armenian genocide, using the very same lies and excuses as they did in 1915 in their reply to the papal initiative. Pope Francis experienced this on his own, when in June 2013 he called the events of 1915 absolutely, correctly “the first genocide of the 20th century.” Ankara immediately protested, called back its ambassador from the Holy See and called the Pope’s remark “absolutely unacceptable,” German historian Michael Hesemann said in an interview with Zenit News Agency ahead of Pope Francis’ Nov. 28-30 trip to Turkey.

“But Pope Francis was right … Every neutral historian would support his view. I am very proud that this great Pope did not give up, but remembered the martyrdom of the Armenian nation again on May 8, 2014, when he received the Armenian Orthodox Patriarch Karekin II in the Vatican. And I am sure he will not ignore this subject during his visit to Turkey, since the Turkish attitude is just unacceptable,” he said.

“Next year, on April 24, the world will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of that genocide. Don’t you think it is eventually time to admit that it happened? I mean, look, I am German. My nation has committed the biggest crime in human history, the Shoah. We can’t bring 6 million Jews back to life, unfortunately. But we can regret, we can try our best to reconcile, we can learn from our history and prevent it from repeating. Isn’t it an originally Catholic concept that God will forgive you any sin when you only sincerely regret it, confess it and do penance? Nobody would blame modern-day Turks for what their ancestors did. But we blame them for denying it today, since any denial of a crime makes you an accomplice, a partner in that crime, a protector of murderers,” Michael Hesemann said.

Asked whether Pope Francis should travel to Armenia, as well, the historian said: “That would be wonderful, since it would be a sign of fraternal solidarity with a suffering nation, a nation of martyrs. A sign against the silence, covering up so many endless chapters of human suffering, and a victory of the truth! I pray that he will visit Armenia in 2015, without any fear of diplomatic consequences. And I trust he will, since he fears only God, not men. But even more important would it be to reconcile those two nations. This can and will only happen when Turkey admits what happened a century ago. Only the truth makes us humans free to forgive.”

I trust in the intuition, the empathy and the genius of Pope Francis. Look what he did on his trip to the Holy Land, establishing a dialogue and the first step towards a reconciliation of Israelis and Palestinians, inviting them to a common day of prayer in the Vatican? This was so wonderful! Maybe such a gesture, bringing both, victims and ‘committers’ together, presenting the facts and inviting them to reconcile, would be the right sign for 2015. I have full trust in the Holy Father, that he will find the right words and gestures, once again,” he said.


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