November 24, 2021 - 11:35 AMT
Eric Esrailian becomes first Armenian to receive Pope's Benemerenti medal

Los Angeles-based physician and producer Eric Esrailian has recently received a medal from Pope Francis for his philanthropic activity around awareness of the Armenian Genocide, Variety reports. Esrailian received the Benemerenti medal for exceptional service to the Roman Catholic Church, becoming the first Armenian to receive this honor.

Esrailian was among the producers of the Discovery Plus doc “Francesco,” directed by Evgeny Afineevsky, in which the pope talks candidly about hot button issues such as same-sex couples, women’s rights and sexual abuse in the church. “Francesco” also features footage of Francis’ 2016 visit to Armenia, during which he used the term “genocide” to describe the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I, sparking an angry reaction by the Turkish government, which strongly denies that a genocide occurred.

“For nearly 100 years the Turkish government influenced storytelling in the United States by suppressing the story and pressuring the U.S. State Department,” Esrailian noted. “I’m someone who loves working in storytelling for social impact."

Esrailian is now developing a TV series entitled “Ceasefire” about the Northern Ireland peace process. Oscar-winning Irish writer-director Terry George (“In the Name of the Father”) is attached to direct. George previously directed Armenian genocide drama “The Promise,” which was bankrolled by late billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, and starred Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac. In 2017, prior to its U.S. release, the movie screened at the Vatican Cinematheque in a clear sign of Catholic Church support.