September 27, 2001
For Immediate Release
Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
tel: (202) 775-1918

POPE CONDEMNS ARMENIAN GENOCIDE; REJECTS TURKISH GOVERNMENT PRESSURE

ANCA Welcomes Statement Made During Pontiff’s Visit to Armenia

“Particularly today, the complexities and challenges of the
international situation require a choice between good and evil, darkness
and light, humanity and inhumanity, truth and falsehood.”

— Pope John Paul II, Yerevan Armenia, September 27, 2001

WASHINGTON, DC – In a joint statement issued by Pope John Paul II and His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, the Pontiff today again characterized the annihilation of the Armenian population in the beginning of the 20th century as “genocide,” despite pressure from the Turkish government to avoid the topic during his historic three-day visit to Armenia, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA.)

The joint declaration, issued on the third and last day of the Pope’s visit to Armenia, stated that “The extermination of a million and a half Armenian Christians, in what is generally referred to as the first genocide of the Twentieth Century, and the subsequent annihilation of thousands under the former totalitarian regime are tragedies that still live in the memory of the present-day generation.” It went on to note that “These innocents who were butchered in vain have not been canonized, but many among them were certainly confessors and martyrs for the name of Christ.”

“We are, as Armenian Americans, deeply gratified by the Pope’s visit to Armenia to help celebrate the 1700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity as Armenia’s state religion. We were, as well, pleased that he chose, on this occasion, to once again condemn the Armenian Genocide as a crime against all humanity,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “The principled stand that Pope John Paul II has voiced on behalf of Catholics around the world reflects his standing as a singularly powerful voice for human rights, and reinforces our collective resolve to strengthen the traditional spiritual bonds and enduring friendship between the Armenian people and Catholics in the United States, the Americas, Europe, and throughout the world.”

The Pope first acknowledged the Armenian Genocide as “genocide” last year, in a joint statement with Catholicos Karekin II following a November 9th meeting in the Vatican between the two church leaders. The statement noted that “the Armenian genocide has been a prelude to the horrors which followed: the two world wars, innumerable regional conflicts and deliberately organized campaigns of extermination that have ended the lives of millions of believers.”

The Pope concluded his three-day visit to Armenia on the occasion of the 1700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity as Armenia’s state religion. During his stay, the Pontiff met with President Robert Kocharyan, prayed with Church leaders at the Armenian Genocide memorial, and participated in other 1700th Anniversary activities. In a short speech at the Genocide memorial the Pope noted that “The horrible violence that was brought onto the Armenians, repels us,” and later referred to the Armenian Genocide, in Armenian, as the “Medz Yeghern.”

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