Flynn: Pope honors genocide victims


June 26, 2016
Source: Boston Herald

By Ray Flynn

Pope Francis speaks at a meeting in the Republic Square in Yereven, Armenia, Saturday, June 25, 2016. Pope Francis is in Armenia for a three-day visit.

-- The Associated Press

Armenians from Greater Boston and across the globe stopped yesterday to reflect on one of the most horrendous events in history — the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians who were killed by Ottoman Turks between 1915 and 1917.

Watching Pope Francis place a wreath at the genocide memorial in Armenia reminded the world of the brutality and the pain that the Armenian people experienced just over 100 years ago.

Unfortunately it took world leaders a long time to find the courage to label the atrocities that occurred a genocide — but now the world knows the truth about what happened.

The truth is Pope John Paul II and the Vatican unhesitatingly called it a genocide, even as timid world politicians closed their eyes to this mayhem. Francis wrote in the memorial guest book: “May God protect the memory of the Armenian people. Memory should never be watered down or forgotten. Memory is the source of peace and the future.”

I had the honor of visiting and speaking with many families in Armenia who suffered unspeakable atrocities during this reign of terror. Some witnessed their parents and family members being carried to their deaths. The stories I heard in my two visits to Yerevan were reflections I will never forget.

While mayor of Boston and later as U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, I led a contingent of patriotic Armenian-Americans, doctors and relief workers to Armenia to bring medical supplies and clothes to help the devastated people who had lost everything in one of worst earthquakes in modern history.

We raised more than $1 million and received much more in critical life-saving supplies in less than a day. Boston businessman Harry Parsekian and I personally delivered the supplies.

The president of Armenia recently told me in Watertown, “The people of Boston will always be remembered for their kind generosity in time of great need. Boston is our close loving friend.”

Yes, those of us who grew up knowing and understanding the Armenian culture know that they are some of the kindest and most loyal people you could ever have as friends.

They are also faithful Christians and loyal Americans.

That’s why our hearts filled up with pride today when we heard Pope Francis praise the people of Armenia for their courage, their values and for their love and forgiveness — even after all the tragedy and, yes, the genocide, hat they had to experience.

Just like the Jewish Holocaust, Stalinism, Rwanda and Cambodia, Americans will never forget.

Raymond L. Flynn is a former mayor of Boston and a former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.