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The story of the nuncio who tried to stop the Armenian Genocide

2017-01-10

Valentina Karakhanian is one of two researchers from the Vatican Secret Archives who has gathered every document the Holy See keeps on the Armenian Genocide.

The result is the dramatic chronological account of how the apostolic delegate of the then Pope Benedict XV gradually became aware of the tragedy that was being perpetrated and tried to stop it.

VALENTINA VARTUI KARAKHANIAN
Researcher, Vatican Secret Archives
"We have tried to organize the documents so that they themselves account for the massacre of Armenians. The protagonists include Armenians, bishops, nuncios, and ambassadors who lived or witnessed the first genocide of the 20th century."

The main character of the book is the pope's representative, Cardinal Angelo Maria Dolci. It shows how he tried to mobilize the diplomatic corps in Constantinople, denounce what happened and reach the Sultan, without much success.

VALENTINA VARTUI KARAKHANIAN
Researcher, Vatican Secret Archives
"The Vatican did what it could, and in some cases what it could not, because the Nuncio went to meet with people who were outside the diplomatic sphere. The apostolic delegate had no right to go to those offices. But he went and showed the delegation's private documents, because to get to the Sultan it was necessary to show the pope's signature. He met with ministers, with the Grand Vizier, and with the Sultan. He spoke on behalf of the pope and the Holy See, because he was certain that Pope Benedict XV wanted to help and save these people."

The first-person accounts from the papal representative give a terribly close-up view of the extermination of Christians expelled from their homes.

"In some regions they have been massacred, others deported to unknown places, left to die along the way. There are mothers who have even sold their own children to save them from death."

VALENTINA VARTUI KARAKHANIAN
Researcher, Vatican Secret Archives
"At one point he understood that the persecution was not specifically against the Armenians, but against the Christians on the territory. The Christians had to be eliminated from that territory. Together with the Armenians, many Assyrians, Chaldeans, Melkites, Maronites were persecuted and murdered ... It was the pain and persecution that united them."

It is estimated that the deportations and eliminations carried out by the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1916 resulted in killing 1,500,000 Armenians.

There are many publications on the horror that these people experienced. But perhaps this is the first piece that gathers details of how the Holy See lived and combated the genocide.


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