Pope Francis to visit Armenia genocide monument

Pope Francis waves as he arrives for his general audience in St Peter's Square at the Vatican, on May 11, 2016.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives for his general audience in St Peter's Square at the Vatican, on May 11, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Francis is to visit Armenia's main genocide memorial during his visit to the country next month, the Vatican confirmed on Friday (May 13) as it revealed his programme for the trip.

The pontiff will be in Armenia on June 24-26. He will visit the Tsitsernakaberd memorial as his first duty on the morning of Saturday (June 25) but is not scheduled to say anything at the site, according to the programme.

The Pope sparked a row with Turkey last year when he described the mass killings of Armenians a century ago as a "genocide".

Turkey disputes the use of the term for what it describes as deaths resulting from civil strife triggered by Armenians siding with invading Russian troops as the Ottoman Empire was falling apart.

Pope Francis will be the second pope to visit Armenia since it became an independent state following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Pope John Paul II went there in 2001.

The trip will also be the latest in a series of visits the Pope has made to countries on the periphery of Europe where Catholics form a small minority of the population, following earlier trips to Albania and Bosnia.

Armenia's Christians are mostly Orthodox and make up the majority of the population in a country which was the first to adopt Christianity as a state religion in 301.