In silence and in prayer while a mournful hymn was sung, Pope Francis formally paid tribute to the estimated 1.5 million Armenians killed by Ottoman Turks in 1915-18 during his 24-26 June visit to Armenia.
Visiting the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial, a monument to the martyrs, Pope Francis wrote in the guestbook: “May God preserve the memory of the Armenian people. Memories should not be watered down or forgotten; memory is a source of peace and of the future.”
The words were in addition to those the pope had planned to write on 25 June, praying that humanity would never again know the large-scale massacre of a people and that by remembering such tragedies of the past, people would learn to vanquish evil with good.
There were no speeches at the memorial, only Scripture readings, prayers and hymns, including one that described the dead as “images of the Lamb of God” led to the slaughter “without opening their mouths to deny the Lord or the homeland”.
A long, basalt memorial wall outside is engraved with the names of the cities of the victims.
The opposite side is decorated with plaques honoring those who denounced the massacre and came to the rescue of the victims.
The name of Pope Benedict XV is prominent.
The pope welcomed an estimated 400 Armenian orphans, who fled to Italy and were given refuge in Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence.
A dozen descendants of those orphans were present at the memorial for Pope Francis’ visit.