A somber Pope Francis, “with pain in my heart,” paid tribute on Saturday (June 25) to the 1.5 million Armenians massacred in 1915, an event which he has labeled a genocide, risking Turkey’s ire.
Francis, on the second day of his trip to Armenia, made an early morning stop at the Tzitzernakaberd, the “Genocide Memorial and Museum,” a towering granite needle flanked by an eternal flame on a hillside overlooking the Armenian capital.
There, visibly moved, he took part in a prayer service along with President Serzh Sarksyan and leaders of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
“Here I pray, with pain in my heart, so that never again will there be tragedies like this, so that humanity does not forget and knows how to overcome evil with good,” he wrote in the guest book in Italian.
On Friday night in a speech to the president, the government and diplomats, Francis departed from his prepared text to use the word “genocide,” a description that infuriated Turkey when he said it a year ago.
As of Saturday morning there was no official reaction from Turkey, which last year recalled its ambassador to the Vatican after the pope used the ‘genocide’ term. The envoy was kept away for 10 months.