Pope Francis today (April 12, 2015) marked the 100th anniversary of the slaughter of over a million Armenians by calling the massacre of Ottoman Turks "the first genocide of the 20th century" and urging the international community to recognize it as such. An infuriated Turkey -- which denies an Armenian genocide ever occurred -- immediately responded by recalling its ambassador to the Vatican and accusing Francis of spreading hatred and "unfounded claims," the ABC News website reports.
Francis issued the pronouncement during a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica commemorating the centenary that was attended by Armenian church leaders and President Serge Sarkisian, who praised the pope for calling a spade a spade and "delivering a powerful message to the international community."
"The words of the leader of a church with one billion followers cannot but have a strong impact," Sarkisian said.
Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks during World War I -- an event widely viewed by historical scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey, however, continues to deny that a genocide ever took place, and that the Armenians killed were victims of a "civil war."