June 7, 2013 4:07 pm
Updated: June 7, 2013 4:20 pm

Pope angers Turkey over Armenian genocide comment

Pope Francis arrives for a meeting with Jesuit school students on June 7, 2013 at the Vatican. The pontiff angered the Turkish government this week over a comment he made about the Armenian genocide.

Andreas Solaro (AFP)/Getty Images

Pope Francis has angered the Turkish government by calling the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians, nearly a century ago, “the first genocide of the 20th century.”

The pontiff made the comment during a visit with a delegation of Armenian Catholics on Monday, when one member of the group said she was a descendant of genocide victims.

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Hurriyet Daily News reported Friday the country’s Foreign Ministry has expressed its “disappointment” with the Vatican for making the comment.

This isn’t the first time Pope Francis has used the term genocide to refer to the atrocities carried out between 1915 and 1918.

At events commemorating the killings’ 91st anniversary in 2006, while he was still a cardinal in Argentina he said the mass killings were the “gravest crime of Ottoman Turkey.”

Turkey has long argued the mass killings and the deportation of Armenians during World War I were not acts of genocide – rather that Turks, then under the Ottoman Empire, were at war and atrocities were committed on both sides.

Several countries that recognize genocide including Argentina, Germany, Greece Russia, Lebanon and Venezuela, Vatican City and Canada.

Read also: Obama avoids using term ‘genocide’ in marking anniversary of Armenian massacres

Canada has had a strained but functional relationship with Turkish government since the federal government voted in 2004 to recognize the genocide.

“It cannot be business as usual while accusing a nation of genocide. It’s a serious allegation. It needs to be substantiated, legally, historically,” Turkish Ambassador Tuncay Babali told The Canadian Press in April of this year.

Babali said he suspects Canada is not engaging economically as quickly as Turkey would like because the genocide issue is still hanging over relations.

He said trade between the two countries could be stronger. The Canadian Press reported the two-way trade between the countries amounted to $2.5 billion.

But Babali suggested it could increase to $10-$15 billion in the next five years if Canada and Turkey formed deeper economic ties.

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