ANKARA — Turkey returned its ambassador to the Vatican on Thursday, nearly 10 months after withdrawing him in protest against Pope Francis’ description of the century-old massacres of Christian Armenians as genocide, Reuters reports.

The pope sparked a row with Turkey when he said the killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians in World War One was “the first genocide of the 20th century”, just days before commemorations to mark the centennial of the massacres in April.

The pope lamented the forced expulsions and atrocious killings of Christians in the world in his brief address. He said humanity has lived through “three massive and unprecedented tragedies the past century: the first, which is generally considered ‘the first genocide of the 20th century,'” struck the Armenian people, quoting a joint declaration signed in 2001 by St. John Paul and Catholicos Karekin II of of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

The Turkish deplomat was called back to Ankara “for consultations” April 12 — the same day Pope Francis used the term genocide. In diplomatic terms, a 10-month absence for an ambassador is a very long time.

Tanju Bilgic, the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s spokesman, said the decision came after the Vatican on Wednesday praised Turkey’s willingness to open its archives to historians and create a joint commission of scholars to explore past events.

The Vatican communique also said, “The painful events of history should not be forgotten; instead they require careful examination and reflection so that they may lead to the healing and purification of memory so necessary for reconciliation and forgiveness for individuals and peoples.”

The Vatican comment was within a statement about the pope having received a book by an Italian author about a naval battle between Turkey and the Venetian Republic in 1657.

Turkey routinely withdraws its representatives in countries that decide to recognise the killing of Armenians as genocide.

 

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