UPDATED: Wednesday, April 15, 2015

In Turkey, genocide is a fighting word. Three days after Pope Francis publicly labeled the brutal slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians as "the first genocide of the 20th century," Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's president, condemned the pontiff's remarks.

"It is out of the question," Erdogan said, "for there to be a stain, a shadow called genocide on Turkey." Today the European Union is due to debate and vote on a resolution to recognize the 100th aniversary of the genocide. At a press conference in Ankara, Erdogan said, "Whatever decision the European Parliament takes on Armenian genocide claims, it would go in one ear and out the other."

Pope Francis commented on the killing of Armenians on Sunday at the Vatican saying "concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it." The comments were made during Mass in the Armenian Catholic rite, held at St. Peter's Basilica.

This year the genocide anniversary will be commemorated on April 24. The killing took place from 1915 to 1923, and 1.5 million people were executed or massacred or died from starvation, torture, or disease.

The phrase “crimes against humanity” was first used to detail the carnage, which many scholars and historians label genocide. During World War I, killing Armenians was the official policy of Ottoman rulers, who suspected Armenians of supporting Imperial Russia, one of their long-standing adversaries. (At that time, the Ottomans ruled western Armenia, and Russia ruled the smaller eastern region.)

“A campaign of race extermination is in progress,” Henry Morgenthau, US ambassador to Turkey, ...

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