Turkey slams Pope Francis’ ‘baseless’ statement on Armenia genocide

ANKARA (AFP) - Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Sunday slammed as "baseless" and "far from the historical reality" Pope Francis' use of the word "genocide" to describe the massacres of Armenians by Ottoman forces during World War I.

"The pope's statement, which is far from the legal and historical reality, cannot be accepted," Cavusoglu said in a statement on Twitter.

"Religious authorities are not the places to incite resentment and hatred with baseless allegations," he added.

Turkey had earlier on Sunday summoned the Vatican envoy to Ankara, Archbishop Antonino Lucibello, to request an explanation over Pope Francis's use of the word "genocide" during a mass in Saint Peter's Basilica to mark the centenary of the killings.

In a separate statement quoted by Turkish media, the foreign ministry said Ankara had felt "great disappointment and sadness" over the pope's remarks.

It accused the head of the world's Roman Catholics of engaging in a "one-sided narrative" that ignored the suffering of Muslims and other religious groups at that time.

The pope's comments "contradicted his message of peace, reconciliation and dialogue" made during his landmark visit to Turkey last November, it added.

Quoting a statement signed by Pope John Paul II and the Armenian patriarch in 2001, the pope had described the killings of Armenians from 1915 as "the first genocide of the 20th century".

Turkey has always vehemently rejected the use of the word "genocide" to describe the killings and has shown no sign of making any major concessions as the 100th anniversary of the tragedy falls.