Beirut (AsiaNews) – Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rahi arrived today in Yerevan (Armenia) for a six-day visit during which he will take part in ceremonies marking the centennial anniversary of the Armenian genocide.
On Friday, the day when Armenians remember the event, a Mass will be held during which known and unknown martyrs will be canonised.
For the patriarch, “The centenary ceremony of the Armenian martyrs who were killed a hundred years ago is not just a Liturgical ceremony, but a major event for the church and people of the East”.
Indeed, “With the fall of martyrs, the church increased in power and spread, and was baptised by their blood.”
Historians estimate that Ottoman Turks killed up to 1.5 million Armenians during World War I, an event widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century, which is what Pope Francis said on 12 April, citing John Paul II.
The Turkish government has so far refused to recognise the massacres as a genocide, saying the deaths were caused by civil unrest in the Ottoman Empire, and that many Turks died as well.
However, the pope's speech and the decision by the European Parliament with regard to the Armenian "genocide” sparked a lively reaction in Turkey.
In a conciliatory message, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stopped well short of recognising the killings as a genocide – as Armenians want – but explicitly referred to deadly deportations of "Ottoman Armenians.”
Speaking about the situation in Lebanon and the region, Patriarch Rahi said the Middle East is in urgent need of Christian values, based on love and truth, not violence and wealth.
More specifically on Lebanon’s deadlocked presidential election, he called on the country's politicians to bridge the gap that divides them and defuse tension and disputes.
“Muslims and Christians should rebuild a civil and democratic state based on equality, respect of human rights and freedom,” Rahi said.
“Lebanon is a wonderful and integrated mosaic that no component in it could be sacrificed,” he added. This “constituted its value,” he added.