For­give our role in Africa geno­cide – Pope

Rwanda: Many vic­tims died at hands of clergy

The Press and Journal (Aberdeenshire) - - FOREIGN NEWS -

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

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