In impromptu remarks to a crowd of young people in northern Italy Sunday, Pope Francis criticized the “great powers” of the world for failing to prevent the systematic genocide of minorities over the previous century.
He highlighted mass killings of Jews in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, the systematic murders of Christians in gulags under the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin, and the executions of one million Armenians by Turkish Ottomans in the first few decades of the 20th century. He also cited extensive persecution of Roma and homosexuals.
The Pope made the off-the-cuff comments during his visit to the city of Turin, in northern Italy. After putting aside his prepared address, Francis said he understands why young people can struggle to trust the world.
“The great powers had photographs of the railway routes that the trains took to the [Nazi] concentration camps,” said Francis, according to the Daily Mail. “Tell me, why didn’t they bomb [them]?”
Francis also discussed the First World War, speaking of “the great tragedy of Armenia.”
“So many died. I don’t know the figure, more than a million, certainly,” the Pope said, according to the Daily Mail. “Where were the great powers then? They were looking the other way.”
The Pope didn’t use the word “genocide," however. Turkey recalled its ambassador to the Vatican after Francis described the massacre as “the first genocide of the 20th century” in April.
The Ottoman government embarked on the “systematic decimation” of its civilian Armenian population in 1918 that lasted until 1923, according to the Armenian National Institute during which an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed.
Francis added that conflicts in the world today are commensurate to “a Third World War in segments.”
“If you trust only men you have lost,” Francis told the crowd, according to Reuters.
“It makes me think of ... people, managers, businessmen who call themselves Christian and they manufacture weapons. That leads to a bit of distrust doesn’t it?” he said to applause, Reuters reported.