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Pope’s use of 'genocide' reignites old debate with new significance




Aram I (R), head of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia speaks with Pope Francis during an Armenian-Rite Mass marking 100 years since the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, on April 12, 2015 at St Peter's basilica in Vatican.
Aram I (R), head of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia speaks with Pope Francis during an Armenian-Rite Mass marking 100 years since the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, on April 12, 2015 at St Peter's basilica in Vatican.
ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images

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Over the weekend, Pope Francis ignited a diplomatic row with Turkey after he described the massacre of over a million Armenians as “the first genocide of the 20th century.”

While his predecessor Pope John Paul II had also identified the mass killing of Armenians during World War I and beyond as a genocide, Pope Francis’s statement caused officials in Turkey to recall their ambassador to the Roman Catholic Church and summon the Vatican envoy. The pope’s remarks were intended to connect the killings of Christians early in the last century with killings of Christians by the self-styled Islamic State in the present.

The topic is fraught with controversy for heads of state and diplomats as Turkey denies allegations that a genocide against the Armenian people had occurred and that Turkey itself had engaged in the genocide. Officially, the United States has yet to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

What geopolitical consequences could ripple out from the pontiff's remarks? Will the United States feel renewed pressure to change its official stance? What is the nature of the connection between killings of Armenian Christians in the early 20th century and Arab Christians in the early 21st?

Guests:

Jason Berry, religion reporter for the GlobalPost and the author of “Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church” (Broadway Books, 2012).

Josh Lockman, International Law Professor and expert on U.S. Foreign Policy at the USC Gould School of Law.