Forgive our role in Africa genocide – Pope
Rwanda: Many victims died at hands of clergy
The Pope has begged forgiveness for the “sins and failings of the church and its members” during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide and told the African nation’s president that he hoped his apology would help the country heal.
In an extraordinary statement after Francis’ meeting with president Paul Kagame, the Vatican acknowledged that some Catholic priests and nuns “succumbed to hatred and violence, betraying their own evangelical mission”.
During the 100-day genocide, more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu extremists.
Many of the victims died at the hands of priests, clergymen and nuns, according to some accounts by survivors, and the Rwandan government said many died in the churches where they had sought refuge.
The Rwandan government has long pressured the church to apologise for its complicity in the genocide, but both the Vatican and the local church have been reluctant to do so.
The church has long said those church officials who committed crimes acted individually.
In 1996, Pope John Paul refused to take blame on the church’s part, telling Rwandan bishops: “The church in itself cannot be held responsible for the misdeeds of its members who have acted against evangelical law.”
Four years later, however, he did make a general apology for a host of Catholic sins and crimes over its 2,000-year history.
Mr Kagame said in December: “I don’t understand why the Pope would apologise for sexual offences, whether in the US, Ireland or Australia, but cannot apologise for the church’s role in the genocide that happened here.”
On Monday, Rwanda called Francis’ meeting with Mr Kagame a “positive step”. But foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo repeated charges that even before 1994, Catholic institutions helped divide Rwandans and “laid the intellectual foundation for genocide ideology”.
“Today, ‘genocide denial’ and trivialisation continue to flourish in certain groups within the church, and genocide suspects have been shielded from justice within Catholic institutions,” she said.
PAPAL AUDIENCE: The Pope greets Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame to the Vatican and explains the church’s position