The largest canonization in history: 1.5 million Armenians massacred by the Ottoman Empire
The ceremony, presided over by Karekin II, took place yesterday afternoon at Echmiadzin (Yerevan). Today there will be civil ceremonies. Putin and Hollande expected to attend. The bells have sounded in Armenia and in New York, Paris, Madrid, Berlin, Venice. Turkey’s resistence in admitting the genocide. The United States’ embarrassment. Austria’s first step.

Yerevan (AsiaNews) - On the eve of the day commemorating the Armenian Genocide, the Catholicos Karekin II canonized all the martyrs killed by the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1917.

The ceremony was held yesterday afternoon outdoors, in Echmiadzin, a few km from the capital, before the remains of what can be considered the oldest Christian cathedral (fourth century) and that of the Armenian martyrs is the canonization of the greatest number of martyrs in the history of the Church.

During the ceremony, Karekin II repeatedly used the word "genocide", which the Turkish government – in some ways the successor of the Ottoman Empire - refuses. "During the dire years of the genocide of the Armenians, - said the Catholicos - millions of our people were uprooted and massacred in a premeditated manner, passed through fire and sword, tasted the bitter fruits of torture and sorrow”.

"The canonization of the martyrs of the genocide brings life-giving new breath, grace and blessing to our national and ecclesiastical life".

At the end of the ceremony, in the presence of President Serzh Sarkisian, the bells rang throughout Armenia, but also in different parts of the world where there are large Armenian communities: New York, Paris, Madrid, Berlin, Venice.

The canonization was attended by many members of the Armenian diaspora. Today civil ceremonies in memory of the genocide of 100 years ago will be held in Yerevan. Several heads of state were invited s, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and French François Hollande. Some chose not to go for fear of ruining their relations with Turkey.

Ankara strongly denies that there was an Armenian genocide. For the Government of the death of 300 thousand (and not 1.5 million) Armenians was caused by civil war and hunger.

During the commemoration of the genocide which took place in the Vatican last April 12, Pope Francis said that the Armenian tragedy was the "first genocide of the twentieth century", sparking the reproaches and threats of President Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

So far more than 20 countries - including Russia, France, Italy - have recognized the genocide. The United States have never used the word "genocide", although the Armenian community in the US continues to ask it of various presidents.

Two days ago, for the first time, the Austrian Parliament observed a minute's silence in memory of the Armenian genocide. At the time Austria was an ally of the Ottoman Empire. The gesture has provoked the ire of Turkey who denounced "an insult to the people Turkish contrary to the facts" and recalled its ambassador for consultations.