VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Turkey reinstated its ambassador to the Vatican nearly a year after recalling him to Ankara.
The diplomat had been called back to Turkey “for consultations” April 12 — the same day Pope Francis used the term “genocide” in reference to the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians during their forced evacuation by Ottoman Turks in 1915-18. Turkey rejects accusations of genocide and disputes the number of Armenians who died.
The pope’s remarks to Armenian Christians gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica, including Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, came ahead of a Mass last year commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.
The pope lamented the forced expulsions and atrocious killings of Christians in the world in his brief address. He said humanity has lived through “three massive and unprecedented tragedies the past century: the first, which is generally considered ‘the first genocide of the 20th century,'” struck the Armenian people, quoting a joint declaration signed in 2001 by St. John Paul and Catholicos Karekin II of Etchmiadzin, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Pope Francis said atrocities from the past had to be recognized — not hidden or denied — for true reconciliation and healing to come to the world.
Almost one year later, Tanju Bilgic, spokesman for Turkey’s foreign ministry, said Feb. 3 that a recent statement by the Vatican was “a positive development” and that Mehmet Pacaci, Turkey’s ambassador to the Holy See, would “return to duty.”
The spokesman was referring to a Vatican communique issued in English and Italian Feb. 3.
The communique “noted and appreciated” Turkey’s repeated commitment “to make its archives available to historians and researchers of interested parties in order to arrive jointly at a better understanding of historical events and the pain and suffering endured by all parties, regardless of their religious or ethnic identity, caught up in war and conflict, including the tragic events of 1915.”
The ministry spokesman highlighted the significance of referring to the “tragic events of 1915,” instead of using the term “genocide.” It also saw as a positive sign that the Vatican communique recalled the assassination of Taha Carım, Turkey’s ambassador to the Holy See, in 1977, at the hands of a terrorist group. The Vatican note said such events urge “us also to acknowledge the suffering of the present and to condemn all acts of violence and terrorism, which continue to cause victims today.”
The Vatican communique also said, “The painful events of history should not be forgotten; instead they require careful examination and reflection so that they may lead to the healing and purification of memory so necessary for reconciliation and forgiveness for individuals and peoples.”