Pope Francis today lamented the deaths a century ago of some 1.5 million Armenians as one of "three massive and unprecedented tragedies" that struck the last century, reports the BBC, and the AP adds that Turkey wasted little time in yanking its ambassador to the Vatican after the pontiff termed the deaths "the first genocide of the 20th century." Per a statement from Ankara's foreign ministry, Francis' statement is "controversial in every aspect, which is based on prejudice, which distorts history and reduces the pains suffered in Anatolia under the conditions of the First World War to members of just one religion."
Francis was honoring a 10th century mystic at today's Mass, and he seemed to know he was inciting the wrath of Turkey, which fiercely denies that the World War I-era killings constitute genocide or that the death toll was that high. "Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it," said Francis. He spoke at an Armenian rite in front of Armenian Christian leaders and Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, notes the AP, and he's not the first pontiff to label it a genocide; Pope John Paul II also did. Turkey yanked its US ambassador in 2010 after a House panel passed a resolution declaring it genocide. (Read more genocide stories.)