The Daily Beast reports: The first time Pope Francis dropped the g-word when describing the systematic massacre of as many as 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Turkish Ottoman Empire during World War I was on June 3, 2013, just a few months into his papacy in an address to Nerses Bedros XIX, head of the Armenian Catholics in Vatican City. “The first genocide of the 20th century was that of the Armenians,” he told those gathered for a special Mass.
Then, the Vatican public-relations team swung into action, softening the pontiff’s perceived intent. Turkish officials called the comment a disappointment, but largely brushed it off as a rookie mistake for a new pope who was not yet versed in Vatican-style political diplomacy.
When he repeated the claim on Sunday in front of hundreds at a Mass inside St. Peter’s Basilica dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the tragic events, the reaction was different. Turkey immediately summoned the Vatican’s ambassador in Turkey for crisis talks, and by nightfall had called its ambassador to the Holy See back to Ankara. In recalling their ambassador, the Turkish foreign minister said in a statement that the Turkish people would not recognize the pope’s statement, “which is controversial in every aspect, which is based on prejudice, which distorts history, and reduces the pains suffered in Anatolia under the conditions of the First World War to members of just one religion.”
Meanwhile, the Vatican press machine didn’t blink—offering no explanations or apologies for the pope’s choice of words, even as the reverberations were felt all the way to Washington and beyond. The Vatican press office instead sent out the text for similar sentiments expressed by John Paul II in 2001. “We’ve learned by now that this pope is not politically correct,” Vatican expert Robert Mickens, editor in chief of the Catholic magazine Global Pulse told The Daily Beast. “No doubt the secretary of state cautioned him about using the g-word, but this is proof once again that the pope does what he wants to do.” [Continue reading…]