Armenian Patriarch of Turkey Spreads Contradictory Messages on April 24

Armenian Patriarch of Turkey Spreads Contradictory Messages on April 24

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

Ever since Archbishop Sahak Mashalian became the Armenian Patriarch of
Turkey in 2019, he has made a series of questionable statements on the
Armenian Genocide and bestowed lavish praise upon Turkish President
Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his denialist remarks.

It is understandable, to a degree, why Armenians in Turkey, especially
those in leadership positions, are forced to go along with the Turkish
government’s denials of the Armenian Genocide, since they are hostages
in Turkey. However, there are red lines that no Armenian, let alone a
clergyman, should cross regardless of circumstances or locality.

However, we should not ascribe all of the Patriarch’s declarations to
threats or pressures from the Turkish government. He has made many
subservient statements of his own free will in order to get elected as
Patriarch or endear himself to the authorities.

The Patriarch’s most recent controversial statement came in a lengthy
sermon he delivered in Armenian and Turkish on April 24, the
anniversary of the Armenian Genocide at Istanbul’s Kumkapu Sourp
Haroutioun Church. While I welcome his desire to commemorate the
Armenian Genocide, I question the accuracy of some of his statements.
In my humble opinion, the Patriarch would have been better off giving
a short sermon, simply expressing his sympathies to those who lost
their lives in 1915. Given his mixed messages, he risked alienating
both Armenians and Turks.

Let us now turn to the Patriarch’s sermon. He started by saying that
April 24 commemorates Armenians who were killed during World War I.
The Patriarch is thus copying the denialist words of Pres. Erdogan who
misrepresents the Armenian dead as victims of war, not genocide. The
Patriarch also capitalized on the fact that in 2015, Catholicos
Karekin II declared all victims of the Armenian Genocide to be
“saints,” which led the Patriarch to qualify April 24 as “no longer a
day of mourning,” but “a day of remembrance for the consecrated

The Patriarch then came up with the following strange explanation:
“The immortality of the victims of the Meds Yeghern began on the day
of their death. We simply awoke to this truth after a hundred years of
mourning!” He accused all those who continue to commemorate the
Armenian Genocide of wanting “to sink in and remain forever in the
inescapable nightmare of labyrinths of the Yeghern.”

While the Patriarch falsely represented the genocide as resulting from
war, he also made some accurate assessments regarding the consequences
of “Meds Yeghern” on the Armenian people, particularly the loss of
their homes and lands:

“Today is April 24. It is the infamous day of remembrance of the
terrible tragedy of our nation a century ago; a miserable date that
symbolizes the start of one of the darkest chapters of our history….
which is familiar to us as ‘Meds Yeghern.’ …A nation was torn from its
centuries-old settlements as a result of a policy cultivated and
developed for reasons incomprehensible to us. The word deportation is
embossed on our Armenian identity in its most painful shades. This
unfortunate practice has led to the emptying of monasteries, the
desolation of places of worship, the deprivation of schools of
teachers and students, and in general, the settlements from their
inhabitants. Families were left to mourn the loss of their parents and
children. Men and women, old men and boys, young men and virgins were
forced to follow a deadly path. In other words, a negative situation
as a result of which hundreds of thousands of people were forced to
bear in their wounded hearts the pain of irreversible and irreparable

The Patriarch continued his mixed messages by condemning the denial of
the genocide, while criticizing its recognition by foreign
parliaments, describing their actions as “provocations by distant
countries.” On the positive side, he dared to use the term genocide
once in Armenian and Turkish in his sermon: “It should be noted that
the denial of the pain experienced by the Armenians on these lands
wounds the conscience. We should also mention that we find contrary to
moral principles the efforts that tend to use the pains of our fathers
on the international stage as politicized theses against Turkey.
Neither the denial nor the genocide resolutions adopted by the
parliaments of various countries will bring honor to the pains
suffered or to the people who lived through them on these lands. On
the contrary, angry and defensive sides, by augmenting the shadows of
the past, cause the peoples’ hopes to reconcile and develop natural
relations to be dimmed and to block the present and future of the
neighboring peoples.”

The Patriarch then suffered from a massive spell of amnesia by falsely
describing “the events of the past 107 years… as a painful exception
to the millennial common history” of Armenians and Turks. The
Patriarch conveniently forgot the centuries of oppression suffered by
Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, the Hamidian massacres of the 1890’s
that caused the deaths of 300,000 Armenians, and the Adana massacre of
1909 that resulted in the killing of 30,000 Armenians.

The Patriarch, however, did not forget to praise Pres. Erdogan as the
“unique figure” who issued sympathetic statements on April 24. The
fact is that Erdogan’s statements should be condemned, not praised,
for distorting the truth about the Armenian Genocide.

The Patriarch ended his sermon by supporting the ongoing diplomatic
efforts for “rapprochement” between Armenia and Turkey. He must
realize that without acknowledging the truth and establishing justice,
there can be no reconciliation.