Below is the transcription of the first set of questions, related to the Pope's Armenia trip, in translation by Catholic News Agency (www.catholicnewsagency.com). Some emphasis in the text and a few notes have been added by "Armeniaca."
Fr. Lombardi: Holy Father, thanks so much for being here at the end of this quite brief, but very intense trip. We have been content to accompany you and now we wish to pose you some questions, taking advantage of your kindness. We have a list of people who are signed up to speak and we can begin, as is usual, with the colleagues from Armenia, as we give them the priority. The first is Artur Grygorian, of Armenian Public Television.
Pope Francis: I thank you so much for your help on this trip, all of your work that does good to people… communicating well the things. They are good news… and good news always does good. Thanks so much! Thanks.
Artur Grygorian (Armenian Public Television): Your Holiness, it is known you have Armenian friends, you had contacts with the Armenian community earlier in Argentina. During the last three days you touched the Armenian spirit. What are your feelings, impressions? And what will be your message for the future, your prayers for Armenia? Thanks.
Pope Francis: Well, let’s think to the future and then let’s go to the past. I hope for justice and peace for this people and I pray for this, because it is a courageous people. And I pray that they find justice and peace. I know that so many are working for this; and also I was very happy last week when I saw a photograph of President Putin with the two Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents… at least they’re speaking! And also with Turkey and the president of the republic in his welcoming speech spoke clearly, he had the courage to say: let’s come to an agreement, forgive each other, and look to the future. And this is a great courage for a people who has suffered so much, no? It’s the icon of the Armenian people. This came to me today while I was praying a bit. It’s a life of stone and a tenderness of a mother. It has carried crosses, but stone crosses - and you see them, eh! - but it has not lost its tenderness, art, music, those “suspended chords”, so difficult to understand and with great geniality. A people who has suffered so much in its history and only the faith has kept it on its feet, because the fact is that it was the first Christian nation, this isn’t sufficient! It was the first Christian nation because the Lord blessed it, because it had the saints, it had bishop saints, martyrs, and for this in resisting Armenia has made itself a “stony skin”, let’s call it that, but it has not lost the tenderness of a maternal heart. Armenia is also a mother!
And this is the second question, let’s go to the first now. If I had so many contacts with the Armenians… I went often with them to Masses, I have many Armenian friends… One thing that I usually don’t like to do for rest, but I would go to dinner with them and you have heavy dinners, eh! But, very good friends, no? A very good friend is Archbishop Kissag Mouradian (*) and Boghossian (**), a Catholic… but among you, more important than belonging to the Apostolic Church or the Catholic Church, is the “Armenism,” and I understood this in those times. Today, an Argentinian from an Armenian family that when I went to the Masses, the archbishop always made him sit next to me so he could explain some ceremonies or some words that I didn’t know, greeted me. One, two and three, but I start with three.
Fr. Lombardi: Now we give the word to another Armenian representative, Jeannine Paloulian.
Jeannine Paloulian (Nouvelles d’Armenie): Yesterday evening at the ecumenical encounter of prayer you asked about carrying out reconciliation with Turkey and Azerbaijan. I would like to ask you simply, given that you are about to go to Azerbaijan in some weeks, what will you do, a concrete sign like you’ve given to Armenia, what is the sign you’d like to give to Azerbaijan tomorrow?
Pope Francis: I will speak to the Azerbaijanis of the truth of what I have seen, of what I have felt and I will also encourage them. I met the Azerbaijani president and I spoke with him… I’ll tell you also that not making peace for a little piece of land, because it’s not a big deal, means something dark, no? But I say this to all the Armenians and the Azerbaijanis… Possibly, they can’t agree on the ways of making peace, and on this they need to work. But I don’t know what else to say… I will say that at the moment it comes to my heart, but always positively trying to find solutions that are viable, that move ahead.
Fr. Lombardi: Thanks a lot. And now we give the floor to Jean Louis de La Vassiere of France Presse, for whom I believe it may be the last trip that he makes with us, so we are happy to give him a voice.
Jean Luis de La Vassiere (AFP): Holy Father, first I wanted to thank you on my behalf and for Sebastien Maillard of La Croix… we are leaving Rome and we wanted to thank you from our hearts for this spring breeze that you’re blowing on the Church… then I have a question: why did you decide to add openly the word genocide to your speech at the presidential palace? On a painful theme like this, do you think it’s useful for peace in this complicated region?
Pope Francis: In Argentina, when you spoke of the Armenian extermination, they always used the word “genocide.” I didn’t know another. At the cathedral in Buenos Aires, we put a stone cross in the third altar on the left, remembering the Armenian genocide. The archbishop came, two Armenian archbishops, the Catholic and the Apostolic, they inaugurated it… also the Apostolic Archbishop in the Catholic Church of St. Bartholomew made an altar in memory of St. Bartholomew… but always… I didn’t know another word. I come from this word. When I arrived in Rome, I heard another word: “The Great Evil” or the “terrible tragedy,” but in Armenian, I don’t know how to say it (***)… and they tell me that no, that that is offensive, that of “genocide,” and that you must say this. I’ve always spoke of three genocides in the last century… always three! The first was the Armenian, then that of Hitler, and the last is that of Stalin… there are small ones, there is another in Africa, but as in the orbit of the two great wars there are these three… I’ve asked why… “but some feel like it’s not true, that there wasn’t a genocide”... another said to me… a lawyer told me this that really interested me: the word “genocide” is a technical word. It’s a word that has a technicality that it is not a synonym of “extermination.” You can say extermination, but declaring a “genocide” brings with it actions of reparation… this is what the lawyer said to me. Last year, when I was preparing the speech, I saw that St John Paul II had used the word, that he used both: Great Evil and genocide. And I cited that one in quotation marks… and it wasn’t received well. A statement was made by the Turkish government. Turkey, in a few days called its ambassador to Ankara, who is a great man, Turkey sent us a top ambassador, who returned three months ago... “an ambassadorial fast.” But, he has the right.. The right to protest, we all have it. In this speech at the start there wasn’t a word, that is true. I respond because I added it. But after having heard the tone of the speech of the president and also with my past with this word, and having said this word last year in St. Peter’s publicly, it would have sounded strange not to say at least the same thing. But there, I wanted to underscore something else, and I don’t think I err that I also said: in this genocide, as in the other two, the great international powers looked in the other direction. And this was the thing. In the Second World War some powers, which had photographed the train lines that led to Auschwitz had the possibility to bomb and didn’t do it. An example. In the context of the First War, where was the problem of the Armenians? And in the context of the Second War where was the problem of Hitler and Stalin and after Yalta of the area… and all that no one speak about. One has to underscore this. And make the historical question: why didn’t you do this, you powers?
I don’t accuse, I ask a question. It’s curious. They looked at the war, at so many things… but not the people… and I don’t know if it’s true, but I would like to know if it’s true that when Hitler persecuted the Jews, one of the words, of the thing that he may have said was “Well, who remembers today the Armenians, let’s do the same with the Jews.” I don’t know if it’s true, maybe it’s hearsay, but I’ve heard this said. Historians, search and see if it’s true (****). I think I answered. But I never said this word with an offensive intention, if not objectively.
(*) Archbishop Kissag Mouradian has been the Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church for Argentina and Chile since 1990.
(**) Bishop Vartan Boghossian has been the Armenian Catholic Exarch for Latin America since 1981.
(***) The reference is to the Armenian expression Medz Yeghern (Մեծ Եղեռն), which literally translated means "Great Crime" in Modern Armenian. The translation "Great Evil," frequently used in Italy, is derived from its original meaning in Classical Armenian. The mistranslation "terrible tragedy" is not warranted by linguistic studies.
(****) As it is well known by historians, Hitler's August 22, 1939 phrase referred to the invasion of Poland, without any reference to the Jewish people.