Close watch on pope’s Armenian Mass

VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis Sunday is to declare a little-known 10th-century Armenian mystic a doctor of the church, one of the highest honors a pope can bestow. More attention, though, is likely to be on whether Francis utters the word “genocide” during his homily.

Francis is marking the 100th anniversary of the killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire by celebrating a Mass in the Armenian Catholic rite in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Armenian patriarch, Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni, is to concelebrate and the Mass is to be attended by Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.

It’s a big deal for the Armenians, who in the run-up to the centenary have been campaigning for greater recognition the slaughter constituted genocide. It’s also a big deal for Turkey, which has long denied the deaths constituted genocide, insisted the toll has been inflated, and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.