Pope Francis
Pope Francis reacts to a comment during his weekly audience at St Peter's at the VaticanReuters/Alessandro Bianchi

Turkey has hit back at Pope Francis after the Catholic leader's remarks on genocide upon his arrival in Armenia. While urging the two countries to reconcile, the pontiff said the world should never forget the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey's strong rebuttal came via the country's Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli, who said the pope's remarks were not based on facts. Speaking to reporters, Canikli said: "First of all, it is unfortunate that the pope made such comments.

"Unfortunately, just like how the UK's separation from the EU has exposed, or as it is seen in this situation, the activities of the Pope and the Papacy bear the traces and reflections of the Crusader mentality. The same goes for the Pope's remarks, as well."

Canikli also took the opportunity to condemn the German parliament's recent decision to recognise the Ottoman Empire's actions in 1915 as a genocide.

During his comments at an evening prayer service, Pope Francis said the Turks slaughtered more than a million Armenians between 1915-1923. He was speaking at in Apostolic Church in Armenia's capital Yerevan during the second day of his trip to the country.

Ankara has never recognised that the Ottoman Empire and 1922 was genocide. The Empire was dissolved in 1922, after the Turkish War of Independence

"Here I pray, with sorrow in my heart, so that tragedies like this never happen again, so that humanity may never forget and is able to overcome evil with good," the Pope told an audience of about 50,000. He added: "Memory, infused with love, becomes capable of setting out on new and unexpected paths, where designs of hatred become projects of reconciliation."

When the Roman Catholic religious leader had earlier made similar observations in April 2015, Ankara recalled its ambassador to the Vatican.