Istanbul, April 13 () - Turkey has strongly reacted against Pope Francis’ description of the mass killings of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire as “genocide,” vowing to show an appropriate reaction against the Vatican.
Pope Francis referred the killings of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 as “the first genocide of the 20th century” citing a statement signed by John Paul II and the Armenian patriarch in 2001.
"In the past century our human family has lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies," he said. "The first, which is widely considered 'the first genocide of the 20th century' struck your own Armenian people."
Turkey’s reaction was delivered to Vatican Ambassador Antonio Lucibello who was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Ankara on April 12.
At the meeting, Foreign Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Levent Murat Burhan told Lucibello that the Pope’s remarks caused “deep sorrow and disappointment” in Ankara.
Criticizing the Pope’s remarks as “one-sided” and “far from accurate” Turkey said it could not understand why the Pope made a “hierarchy” between the pains suffered by Muslims and Christians at the time.
Referring only to “Armenian claims” over the historical incident and not mentioning other Anatolian populations killed at the same time does not befit a cleric, Ankara reportedly told the Vatican.
Ambassador Lucibello was told that the Pope’s statement “created a loss of trust in bilateral ties” and that “Turkey will surely respond.”
Sources said Turkey was considering withdrawing its ambassador to the Vatican for consultations.
While Francis did not use his own words to describe the murders as genocide, John Paul II's use of the term provoked a sharp reaction from Turkey at the time.
"We recall the centenary of that tragic event, that immense and senseless slaughter whose cruelty your forebears had to endure" Francis said.
"It is necessary, and indeed a duty, to honor their memory, for whenever memory fades, it means that evil allows wounds to fester" he added.
Armenia says up to 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians were killed in a genocide starting in 1915. Turkey denies that the deaths amounted to genocide, saying the death toll of Armenians killed during mass deportations has been inflated and that those killed in 1915 and 1916 were victims of general unrest during World War I.