Pope apologises for Church role in Rwanda genocide

Pope apologises for Church role in Rwanda genocide

Pope Francis on Monday begged forgiveness for the "sins and failings of the church and its members" during Rwanda's 1994 genocide as the Holy See sought to open a new phase in relations almost a quarter-century after the slaughter.

The papal statement followed Francis' meeting with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and First Lady Jeannette Kagame at the Vatican, reported Efe news.

The Vatican statement said that the pope "implored anew God's forgiveness for the sins and failings of the church and its members, among whom priests, and religious men and women who succumbed to hatred and violence, betraying their own evangelical mission".

The Catholic Church in Rwanda a year ago publicly apologised for the actions of some Catholics and priests during the genocide that lasted around 100 days in 1994.

Other individual priests have since been convicted of human rights violations for heinous acts during the genocide such as bulldozing a church with 2,000 Tutsis inside and raping Tutsi women.

Dozens of Catholic priests are believed to have been complicit in the killings of some 800,000 people by Hutu extremists in 1994.

It indicates the Pope sought for God's forgiveness for the failure of the church and its members among priests and followers who got involved in the genocide.

The pontiff "conveyed his profound sadness, and that of the Holy See and of the Church, for the genocide against the Tutsi", the Vatican said in a statement following a meeting on Monday between Francis and Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

During Rwanda's annual dialogue in December, Mr Kagame said he did not understand why the church was so reluctant to apologise for genocide when popes have apologised for other crimes.

Amid continued pressure from the government, Rwanda's Catholic bishops past year apologized for "all the wrongs the church committed".

But the Rwandan government rejected the apology as "profoundly inadequate" and demanded a statement from the Vatican on the matter.

"I don't understand why the pope would apologize for sexual offences, whether it is in the US, Ireland or Australia, but can not apologise for the role of the church in the genocide that happened here", Mr Kagame said at the time.

Four Catholic priests were in 2001 indicted by the defunct UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for their role in the genocide.

"This stance was easily interpreted by ordinary Christians as an implicit endorsement of the killings, as was the close association of church leaders with the leaders of the genocide", it said.

Rwanda's foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo, who accompanied President Kagame on the trip, said the meeting was a positive step forward.

In November, the government in Kigali requested an apology from the Vatican for the role that some Catholic priests and religious figures played in the massacres of ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

"It allows us to build a stronger base for restoring harmony between Rwandans and the Catholic Church", she said.

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