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Erdogan warns pope over Armenian genocide remarks

Holy See comes under fire from Turkish officials for statements on Ottomans’ mass killings in WWI

Pope Francis (L) visits Hagia Sophia Mosque (Santa Sofia) on November 29, 2014 in Istanbul. (Photo credit: AFP/FILIPPO MONTEFORTE)
Pope Francis (L) visits Hagia Sophia Mosque (Santa Sofia) on November 29, 2014 in Istanbul. (Photo credit: AFP/FILIPPO MONTEFORTE)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday expressed anger over the pope’s use of the word genocide to describe the mass killings of Armenians in World War I, saying such talk was nonsense and the pontiff should not repeat such a mistake again.

Ankara at the weekend summoned the Vatican nuncio and recalled the Turkish envoy to the Holy See in a furious reaction to Pope Francis’ description of the killings of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman forces.

“If politicians and religious leaders do the job of historians then we will not get to the truth and only end with nonsense,” Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara in his first reaction to the pope’s comments.

“Respected pope: I condemn this mistake and warn against making it again,” he said to applause from an audience of businessmen.

Turkey has vehemently rejected the use of the term genocide to describe the Ottoman era killings and is keeping to its line in the 100th anniversary of the tragedy.

Armenians say 1.5 million of their ancestors were killed in a targeted campaign of extermination by Ottoman forces. The Turkish government said hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Christians were killed on both sides in a wartime tragedy.

The comments by the pope, who visited Turkey last November, have led to unprecedented attacks on the pontiff by Turkish officials.

EU Minister Volkan Bozkir said Monday that the pope had made the comment because of a strong Armenian lobby in his homeland of Argentina.

“I think Pope Francis made this statement because he is an Argentine. Unfortunately, in Argentina, the Armenian diaspora is dominant in the press and business world,” Bozkir said, quoted by the official Anatolia news agency.

Referring to the influx of war criminals to Latin America after World War II, Bozkir declared that Argentina “welcomed Nazis, who were the lead performers of the Jewish Holocaust.”

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