Boston Archdiocese to hold first-ever Armenian Genocide commemoration

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley said Wednesday the Archdiocese of Boston will hold its first commemoration of the Armenian genocide, the latest Catholic Church effort to acknowledge the events that killed 1.5 million a century ago, the Boston Globe reports.

O’Malley is set to preside over a 4 p.m. prayer service April 23 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End.

In a statement, O’Malley referred to an acknowledgment last year by Pope Francis that the World War I-era deaths at the hands of Ottoman Turks were the first genocide of the 20th century, a statement that angered the Turkish government.

O’Malley also expressed solidarity with Christians who are suffering around the world.

“Pope Francis made clear that the church acknowledges the suffering of so many who lost their lives in witness to their faith and that, tragically, such witness continues through the persecution of Christians taking place throughout the world today,” O’Malley said.

“Building on our bond as Christians, the Archdiocese of Boston joins with our Armenian brothers and sisters to make this remembrance in common prayer to our Lord,” O’Malley added.

Local and regional Armenian religious leaders will attend the April event.

The Revs. Antranig Baljian and Arakel Aljalian of the Boston-area Armenian community lauded O’Malley for his “desire to continue building bridges of Christian unity.”

“Catholics and Armenians are standing together more strongly than ever,” they said in a statement released by the Catholic archdiocese. “The vitality and fidelity of the Armenian community which will be expressed April 23 is a demonstration of the victory of good over evil.”

A 2001 declaration by Pope John Paul II and Catholicos Karekin II, the Armenian Apostolic Church’s supreme patriarch, referred to the Armenian slaughter as a campaign of extermination “generally referred to as the first genocide of the 20th century.”

But the Vatican had largely avoided that term before Pope Francis’ statement last April.

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