NEW POPE, NEW HOPEhttp://www.mirrorspe...-pope-new-hope/
EDITORIAL | MARCH 20, 2013 5:17 PM
By Edmond Y. Azadian
With the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, a moment of confusion
reigned in the Roman Catholic Church, because the Papacy is a lifetime
position and his resignation only had one precedent - a millennium ago.
But, soon jubilation returned with the election of a new pope,
When Cardinal Aghajanian was alive, the conclave of Cardinals by-passed
him, because at that time, only Italian members of the clergy were
eligible to the throne of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
But, since his passing, a pope from Poland was elected, followed by one
from Germany and now the latest one is from South America. This week,
Pope Francis I will become the 266th pontiff occupying the Throne of
But why should the new pope's election interest or excite the members
of other churches, including the Armenian Apostolic Church?
To begin with, excitement and media hype are contagious. Second,
the papacy has a political power extending far beyond the 1.2
billion Catholics worldwide. Although gone are the days when popes
and cardinals in Europe had absolute power over individuals through
the Inquisition courts; the Catholic clergy, very much like the Nazi
and the Communist systems, controlled the thinking of individuals
members and the accusation of heresy was a death knell for its victims.
But still popes have moral power today, which also can translate into
political power, if necessary.
Part of the excitement in the Armenian community is derived from
the fact that the former Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires has
interacted with the Armenian community in Argentina and has made
powerful statements about the Armenian Genocide. To reinforce the
relations with Armenia and the Armenians, President Serge Sargisian
and Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II have flown to the Vatican to
participate in the installation ceremonies of the new pope, along with
six sovereign rulers and 31 heads of state and many religious leaders.
This is a very constructive political move building upon the existing
bond with the new pontiff.
It is reported that Pope Francis I, seven years ago, urged Turkey
to unconditionally recognize the Armenian Genocide during the
commemorations marking the 91st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide
in Buenos Aires. Then-Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio urged Turkey
to recognize the Genocide as the "gravest crime of Ottoman Turkey
against the Armenian people and the entire humanity."
It is also reported that he had been instrumental in placing a
Khatchkar (cross stone) in Buenos Aires' Metropolitan Cathedral. He has
welcomed and met Catholicos Karekin II in Argentina and participated
in a number of ecumenical services with the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Armenians have to be appreciative of the pope's valiant stand on the
issue of the Genocide. But, by the same token, we have experienced
many instances when people switch opinions upon attaining positions
of power. Presidents Obama and George W. Bush, as well as Secretaries
of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, shamelessly have disavowed
their earlier principled positions. We may even question the evasive
formulation of People John Paul II during his visit to Armenia, where
instead of calling a spade a spade he reverted to the Armenian term
Medz Yeghern, which is not exactly genocide (tseghaspanoutiun). He
was not a politician and one would question his ruse to avoid a
moral issue frontally. In fact, he caused more damage to the issue
of Genocide recognition than good. The first casualty, is, of course
President Obama's imitation of the pope, hiding his previous moral
spine behind the word that the pope had used in a diversionary tactic.
With all his charisma and his contribution to the collapse of the
Soviet Empire, Pope John Paul II did not avoid the controversy of
kissing General Galtieri of Argentina, who along with President Jorge
Rafael Videla, were the perpetrators of Argentina's Dirty War, which
claimed 30,000 lives along with many more maimed in torture chambers.
As we stated earlier, the papacy has also political clout in the real
world. That is why President Christina Kirchner of Argentina was one
of the first heads of state to rush to the Vatican to plead with the
pope to intervene on behalf of her country with Great Britain, over
the issue of Malvinas Islands, known to the British as the Falkland
Islands off the Argentine coast.
Although the new pontiff had been at odds with Mrs. Kirchner and with
her late husband, President Nestor Kirchner, before her, over some
social issues, it remains to be seen if the pope will keep his word
and help Argentina's cause.
While still in Buenos Aires, Pope Francis I had stated that Britain
had "usurped" the Malvinas from Argentina.
It looks like the war of words over these islands is intensifying
since the discovery of oil in the coastal regions of these islands.
The political sideshow is coinciding with the papal celebration.
It is also ironic that Great Britain, which has brazenly denied
the right of self-determination to the people of Karabagh, has also
organized a referendum in March on the sparsely-populated islands
- mostly transplants from the British Isles - to declare that the
people of the Falklands have a right to self-determination and they
have overwhelmingly voted to stay with Britain.
Pope Francis I has demonstrated over the years that he stands for the
poor people. He is characterized by personal humility and doctrinal
conservatism, although some questions have been raised about his
inaction during the era of Argentina's brutal dictatorship.
It looks like he is the pontiff most familiar with the plight
and history of the Armenian people and we can bank on that in
developing our church's relations with the Vatican. Armenia very
recently appointed a new ambassador to the Vatican, Mikael Minasyan,
the president's son-in-law, with the purpose of further developing
relations with the Vatican.
With the election of the new pope, comes new hope. Pope Francis can
certainly make a difference in reiterating his position on the issue
of genocide and avoid the detours that characterized Pope John Paul's
visit to Armenia.