WASHINGTON—Armenian-American communities in Washington, New York, and Philadelphia welcomed Pope Francis on his first ever visit to the United States, expressing their gratitude to the pontiff for his principled stance on the Armenian Genocide. In April of this year, quoting the 2001 joint declaration by Pope John Paul II and Catholicos Karekin II, Pope Francis reaffirmed the Vatican’s official position on this international crime, further adding that “Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.”
The pope’s visit began in Washington, D.C., where he participated in several special events, including a historical first address ever delivered by a pope to the joint session of Congress. Over a dozen local Armenians—under the leadership of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Eastern Region—gathered at the West Lawn in front of the U.S. Capitol with banners and flags thanking the pope. Many media outlets, including journalists from the Associated Press and Voice of America, covered the visit, including the banners praising the pope for his principled stance against the denial of the Armenian Genocide.
“Pope Francis as an influential world leader constantly stresses the importance of moral imperative over political expediency, especially in matters of historical injustice,” said one of the participants, Dikran Khodanian. “In that regard, we highly value his contributions to the international affirmation of the Armenian Genocide and strong condemnation of its denial.”
The pope’s next visit was to New York, where tens of Armenian National Committee (ANC) of New York activists rallied with thousands of Catholics and others to greet him prior to his evening prayer service at St. Patrick Cathedral in Manhattan. Activists held posters with messages of gratitude on behalf of the Armenian-American community.
The ANCA Eastern Region’s Artur Martirosyan noted, “Pope Francis should be a role model for other world leaders, and first of all to the Obama Administration, to always be on the right side of history and work towards justice. Having canonized the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide, we commence the second century with a renewed sense of purpose and with the aim of fulfilling historical justice for all genocide victims based on truth and in solidarity with other affected communities.”
The Philadelphia Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee, which encompasses all major community organizations in the area, held a fundraiser earlier in preparation for the pope’s visit. As a result, the committee was able to place special ads in the print and online versions of the Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as sponsor special billboards advantageously placed along the route that Pope Francis was going to take while in the city. The committee worked closely with the World Meeting of Families (WMOF), providing input on their project and specially designing the billboards and ads to match the colors and style of the WMOF logo.
“It was a major priority that the Philadelphia Armenian community take the time to express our gratitude to Pope Francis during his visit to our city,” said Kim Yacoubian, co-chair of the Philadelphia Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee. “Our committee is extremely grateful to all of our donors who helped fund the billboards and full-page Inquirer ads thanking the Pope for recognizing the Armenian Genocide.”
For information on the activities of the Philadelphia Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee, visit www.recognitionnow.org.