Armenians praise Pope's comments

Local leaders and community members are praising Pope Francis for his remarks from the Vatican this past weekend that categorized the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in 1915 as the first genocide of the 20th century.

The pope’s comments echoed sentiments made by Pope John Paul II in 2001 and quickly generated a wave of positive response from Armenians worldwide, including those living in Glendale who hope the remarks will push top government officials here for recognition in the U.S.

A century after the genocide and the fall of the empire, the modern Turkish government continues to hold its ground by claiming the killings didn’t amount to a genocide.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) has introduced legislation pushing for genocide recognition and called Pope Francis an extraordinary spiritual leader, adding his words were moving to the tens of thousands of his Armenian constituents.

“I think he’s certainly won a place of affection in every Armenian household,” Schiff said.


The congressman added that the pope’s address went beyond the Catholic church and was geared toward all humanity. He said he also hopes President Obama will make good on his campaign promise to officially recognize the genocide.


“I’m hoping the next on through the door will be our president,” Schiff said.


Mayor Zareh Sinanyan said he’s optimistic that the pope’s remarks could influence more recognition around the world.


“Unfortunately, we Armenians have been in a position for the last 100 years in even getting simply acknowledged of a historical fact,” he said. “It takes a lot of energy and resources, which is very sad. Humanity doesn’t seem to be ready to embrace, to do the right thing for the right reasons.”


Pope Francis’ speech drew speedy criticism from the government of Turkey, which withdrew its ambassador to the Vatican.


“The reason [Turkey is] acting like this is because of the international community’s failure for the past 100 years to properly address the issue of the Armenian Genocide,” the mayor said. “This is what happens when there’s murder and then you get away with it.”


An official with the Armenian National Committee of America-Glendale said the group also hopes Obama takes note of the pope’s comments and said continued denial goes beyond the Armenian Genocide.


“We applaud the conviction of Pope Francis in bringing the Armenian Genocide into a global context and shedding light on this horrific crime against humanity that continues to be denied by its perpetrator, and as a result of this denial, has set the stage for similar acts of genocide to continue occurring in our modern-day chain of events,” said Tigranna Zakaryan, community relations director for the organization.


Local Armenians also shared their appreciation for Pope Francis and his remarks.


Aram Kavoukjian, whose family’s pharmacy has been in Glendale for two decades, said he was pleased and relieved that the Armenian Genocide was getting international attention.


“It was great to see that the pope wasn’t worried about politics and was just interested in talking about the truth of what happened,” Kavoukjian said.


Glendale resident Ani Chalabyan, who moved to the city from Armenia six months ago, said she hoped the pope’s comments would put pressure on President Obama to recognize the genocide.


While Kavoukjian doesn’t think the Vatican has enough political power to push the U.S. or Turkey into recognition, he said the pope’s global reach helps increase awareness about the massacres.


“This is getting our cause out there,” he said.

Source: Glendale News-Press