YEREVAN, Armenia, June 24 (UPI) -- Pope Francis said during a visit to Eastern Europe on Friday that the mass killings of Armenians by the Ottomans during World War I was indeed a genocide -- an assertion that has angered the Turkish government in recent weeks.
The pontiff made the remarks during a visit to the Armenian capital of Yerevan on Friday.
The pope's comments are the latest in the ongoing controversy over the use of the word "genocide" to describe the killings of Armenians during World War I by the Turkish Ottomans.
"This tragedy, this genocide, has unfortunately marked the start of a sad series of great catastrophes of the last century," Pope Francis said Friday.
"[The killings were] made possible by twisted racial, ideological or religious aims that darkened the minds of the tormentors even to the point of planning the annihilation of entire peoples," the pontiff added.
The commitment to full unity and cooperation among all the Lord’s disciples is like a radiant light in a dark night. #PopeInArmenia— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) June 24, 2016
Earlier this month, Turkish officials slammed the German government for using the term.
Turkey also reacted by pulling its ambassadors from Germany to protest the classification that describes the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in 1915.
Friday, though, Armenian citizens and leaders applauded the pope's remarks.
"One cannot but believe in the triumph of justice when in 100 years ... the message of justice is being conveyed to mankind from the heart of the Catholic world," Armenian President Sargsyan said.
Friday was the second time Pope Francis called the killings "genocide."