The leader of Armenian Catholics in Eastern Europe has described how the suffering inflicted by the 1915 genocide has echoed down the generations to today.
Armenian Catholic Archbishop Raphael François Minassian of Eastern Europe has praised the Pope’s recognition of the scale of the massacre carried out against Armenians by Ottoman forces during the First World War.
Speaking in April during a Mass at St Peter’s to mark the centenary of the massacre, the Pope used the word “genocide” in a reference to the killing of nearly 1.5 million Armenian Christians.
In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, archbishop Minassian said: “We were certain that the Pope would remember the genocide, and his courage has changed the attitude of the entire world.”
The archbishop gave his ACN interview during his visit to Rome for the plenary annual session of ROACO (Riunione delle Opere di Aiuto per le Chiese Orientali), an international symposium of aid agencies for the Oriental Churches.
Referring to the Pope’s statement during the Armenian Mass at St Peter’s, the archbishop stressed that Francis “had encouraged us to pursue reconciliation – an act of the highest educational, spiritual and human value, which also helps us to recover what we have lost.”
Archbishop Minassian, who is responsible for the Armenian community in Georgia, Armenia and the Russian Federation, described how even Armenians who did not directly witness the massacre of 1915 nevertheless still suffer the consequences.
He said: “Some psychological attitudes, such as the instinctive fear at the sight of an armed guard, have been passed down even to the second and third generations.”
Describing the situation in Armenia, Archbishop Minassian called co-operation with the Armenian Apostolic Church “perfect” despite a notable lack of suitable infrastructure within the Church itself.
He said: “In the parishes there are no church halls or offices, everything has to be done inside the church itself,” he admitted, “Often the priests are obliged to celebrate the sacred liturgies in school halls, with the result that we risk being looked upon as a sect.”