View From Rome
29 June 2016
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He is the Pope who wants to open up debate and dialogue, rather than always having the last word. So it’s not surprising that Francis seems to view his prepared speeches as more of a guide than a document set in stone.
We saw this once again during his visit to Armenia last weekend when, departing from his text, Francis described the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman-era Turks a century ago as a “genocide.” His prepared speech to President Serzh Sargsyan – presumably vetted by the Holy See’s diplomatic arm the Secretariat of State – made no mention of genocide. It instead used the Armenian description Metz Yeghern, literally meaning “Great Crime”, which Holy See spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi had said before the visit was now the preferred phrase.
Vatican diplomats had been nervous about the visit to Armenia which neighbours Turkey: when the Pope used the word genocide a year ago to describe the slaughter of Armenians, Turkey recalled their ambassador to the Holy See. Following Francis’ use of the word this time, the Turks are again furious (see page 25).
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