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Wednesday, 26 September, 2001, 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK
Pope avoids Armenia controversy
Pope John Paul II and the Armenian Patriarch
The Pope chose an Armenian term to describe the killings
The Pope has skirted controversy on his visit to Armenia by avoiding the word "genocide" in his prayers for those who died at the hands of Ottoman Turks.

We are appalled at the terrible violence done to the Armenian people and dismayed that the world still knows such inhumanity

Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II said the Catholic Church was "appalled" and "dismayed" by the killings in prayers at a memorial for the dead in the Armenian capital Yerevan.

On Tuesday, the 81-year-old Pope who suffers from Parkinson's disease only managed to read two paragraphs of his statement, prompting renewed fears about his health.

But on Wednesday he laid a rose at the eternal flame in the memorial and stood for prayers before returning to his car.

The Armenians insistence that the killings of thousands of ethnic Armenians in 1915 constitute a genocide is fiercely denied by modern-day Turkey.

'Terrible violence'

In his address the Pope said: "Listen O lord to the lament that rises from this place, to the call of the dead from the depths of the Metz Yeghern, the cry of innocent blood that pleads like the blood of Abel."

Pope at
The Pope prayed by the eternal flame at the memorial
His use of the Armenian term, "Metz Yeghern", which means great calamity, to refer to the murders staved off the potential diplomatic storm which the word "genocide" might have provoked from Turkey.

"We are appalled at the terrible violence done to the Armenian people and dismayed that the world still knows such inhumanity," he said.

Armenians say 1.5 million of their people were killed by Ottoman Turks.

They provoked outrage in Turkey when they successfully lobbied the French senate to pass a resolution commemorating the "genocide".

The Pope is making the first visit by a head of the Catholic Church to Armenia, which is celebrating the founding of the world's first Christian state 1,700 years ago.

Later on Wednesday he is due take part in an interfaith service at the new cathedral in Yerevan.

The BBC's Robert Pigott
"John Paul did not describe the killings of Armenians as genocide"
See also:

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Timeline: Armenia
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Armenia's economic problems
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Azerbaijan warns of fighting with Armenia
22 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Armenia
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
On edge: Afghanistan's neighbours
30 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Vatican
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Kazakhstan ready to host Afghan talks
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