ARMENIAN CHURCH CANONISES '1.5M GENOCIDE VICTIMS'

20 minutes ago
23/04/14
>From the section Europe

Hundreds gathered for the ceremony near the capital

The Armenian Church has held a ceremony near Yerevan to canonise 1.5
million Armenians it says were killed in massacres and deportations
by Ottoman Turks during World War One.

The church says the aim of the ceremony was to proclaim the martyrdom
of those killed for their faith and homeland.

On Friday commemorations will mark the 100th anniversary of the
killings.

Turkey disputes the term "genocide", arguing that there were many
deaths on both sides during the conflict.

After the ceremony, bells tolled in Armenian churches around the world.

The beatification at the Echmiadzin Cathedral did not give the specific
number of victims or their names.

It is the first time in 400 years that the Armenian Church has used
the rite of canonisation.

The use of the word "genocide" to describe the killings is
controversial. Pope Francis was rebuked recently weeks by Turkish
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for describing it as the "first genocide
of the 20th Century".

Bells tolled at the symbolic time of 19:15 local time to mark the
centenary of the killings

On Friday, a memorial service will be held in Turkey and its prime
minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, has said the country will "share the pain"
of Armenians.

However, he reiterated Turkey's stance that the killings were not
genocide.

"To reduce everything to a single word, to put responsibility through
generalisations on the Turkish nation alone... is legally and morally
problematic," he said.

Mr Davutoglu did acknowledge the deportations, saying: "We once again
respectfully remember and share the pain of grandchildren and children
of Ottoman Armenians who lost their lives during deportation in 1915."

What happened in 1915?

Hundreds of thousands of Armenians died in 1915 at the hands of the
Ottoman Turks, whose empire was disintegrating.

Many of the victims were civilians deported to barren desert regions
where they died of starvation and thirst. Thousands also died in
massacres.

Armenia says up to 1.5 million people were killed. Turkey says the
number of deaths was much smaller.

Most non-Turkish scholars of the events regard them as genocide - as
do more than 20 states, including France, Germany, Canada and Russia,
and various international bodies including the European Parliament.

Turkey rejects the term genocide, maintaining that many of the dead
were killed in clashes during World War One, and that many ethnic
Turks also suffered in the conflict.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-32437633