His notable change of tone from a statement last year that the wholesale killing of Armenian Christians between 1915 and 1923 was the â€œfirst genocide of the 20th centuryâ€ is aimed at avoiding a repeat of the ensuing diplomatic rift between Turkey and the Vatican.
The pontiffâ€™s three-day visit to Armenia, which begins on Friday, includes prayers at Tsitsernakaberd, widely known as the genocide memorial and museum, in the capital, Yerevan.
The official programme for the trip, released this week by the Vatican, refers to Tsitsernakaberd as the â€œmemorial of the massacresâ€. The popeâ€™s spokesperson said the Armenian phrase Medz Yeghern, which translates as the â€œgreat evilâ€ or the â€œgreat catastropheâ€, was preferred to genocide.
â€œWhy is there an obsession to use the word â€˜genocideâ€™ and ask about it in all the questions?â€ Federico Lombardi asked journalists at a briefing on the trip this week.
â€œWe know what happened. None of us is denying that there were horrible massacres. We recognise this. We are going to the memorial precisely to remember this but we donâ€™t want this to become a trap of political and ideological discussions,â€ he said. [More]