Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Colonialist Papacy - it has to be fiction because it certainly is not fact!

This column appeared in the Turkish right-wing and pro-government Daily Sabah.

I am willing to take a guess that this flight of fancy was prompted by Pope Francis' homily last week on the occasion of the Centenary of the Armenian Genocide.  The Turkish government responded with some less than helpful comments.  I find it somewhat ironical that Francis' use of the word "genocide" was from a reference made by Pope St John Paul II in 2001. (See below)

Ihsan Aktas has written an appalling piece of non-historical propaganda.  He places all the wrongs of western colonialism, and I agree, there are many, at the feet of the papacy.  How bizarre.  Using the time-tested method of "cherry picking" the pieces of historical data that best suit the predetermined conclusion, Mr Aktas attempts to make a judgement in a few hundred words on issues that need far greater depth and attention. He appears woefully ignorant not only of the role of the pope within the church, but of the entire complex history of Pius XII and the Holocaust.  Enough said.

In Australia an Assyrian Memorial in the western Sydney suburb of Bonnyrigg was vandalised with anti-Assyrian, anti-Armenian and antisemitic graffiti.  Efforts by some local Turkish community groups to prevent the memorial's construction in 2010  were frustrated because of considerable community and government support for the memorial.

Turkey has nothing to lose by acknowledging the history of the Armenian genocide.  Denial and denialism only fuels more tension, hurt and nurtures hatreds.  Turkey has everything to gain by acknowledging the past; it will help heal old wounds and promote openness and understanding and create a way forward that is honest and built on truth.  2015 is an opportunity not to be missed; but the language from Istanbul suggests the old pattern of denial remains firmly entrenched. 

And in today's Sydney Morning Herald there is an article on the Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu​, saying that the European Community's call for Turkey to acknowledge the atrocities against the Armenians as genocide is tantamount to an act of racism.  Again the Pope's comments figured in the article.

So what did Francis say?

Dear Armenian brothers and sisters,

Dear brothers and sisters.

On a number of occasions I have spoken of our time as a time of war, a third world war which is being fought piecemeal, one in which we daily witness savage crimes, brutal massacres and senseless destruction. Sadly, today too we hear the muffled and forgotten cry of so many of our defenceless brothers and sisters who, on account of their faith in Christ or their ethnic origin, are publicly and ruthlessly put to death – decapitated, crucified, burned alive – or forced to leave their homeland.

Today too we are experiencing a sort of genocide created by general and collective indifference, by the complicit silence of Cain, who cries out: “What does it matter to me? Am I my brother’s keeper?” (cf. Gen 4:9; Homily in Redipuglia, 13 September 2014).

In the past century our human family has lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies. The first, which is widely considered “the first genocide of the twentieth century” (John Paul II and Karekin II, Common Declaration, Etchmiadzin, 27 September 2001), struck your own Armenian people, the first Christian nation, as well as Catholic and Orthodox Syrians, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Greeks. Bishops and priests, religious, women and men, the elderly and even defenceless children and the infirm were murdered. The remaining two were perpetrated by Nazism and Stalinism. And more recently there have been other mass killings, like those in Cambodia, Rwanda, Burundi and Bosnia. It seems that humanity is incapable of putting a halt to the shedding of innocent blood. It seems that the enthusiasm generated at the end of the Second World War has dissipated and is now disappearing. It seems that the human family has refused to learn from its mistakes caused by the law of terror, so that today too there are those who attempt to eliminate others with the help of a few and with the complicit silence of others who simply stand by. We have not yet learned that “war is madness”, “senseless slaughter” (cf. Homily in Redipuglia, 13 September 2014).

Dear Armenian Christians, today, with hearts filled with pain but at the same time with great hope in the risen Lord, we recall the centenary of that tragic event, that immense and senseless slaughter whose cruelty your forebears had to endure. It is necessary, and indeed a duty, to honour their memory, for whenever memory fades, it means that evil allows wounds to fester. Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it!

I greet you with affection and I thank you for your witness.

With gratitude for his presence, I greet Mr Serž Sargsyan, the President of the Republic of Armenia.

My cordial greeting goes also to my brother Patriarchs and Bishops: His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians; His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX, Patriarch of Cilicia of Armenian Catholics; and Catholicosates of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Patriarchate of the Armenian Catholic Church.

In the firm certainty that evil never comes from God, who is infinitely good, and standing firm in faith, let us profess that cruelty may never be considered God’s work and, what is more, can find absolutely no justification in his Holy Name. Let us continue this celebration by fixing our gaze on Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, victor over death and evil!

Pope Francis with Armenian Catholic Patriarchs 2015

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