Pope asks forgiveness for 'failings of Church' during Rwandan genocide

Cheryl Sanders
March 21, 2017

Pope Francis said on Monday he hoped his "humble recognition of the failings of that period, which, unfortunately, disfigured the face of the Church, may contribute to a "purification of memory" and may promote, in hope and renewed trust, a future of peace".

The Rwandan government says many died in the churches where they had sought refuge.

"(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", the Vatican said in a statement.

The UN said he had "encouraged and directed" the demolition of a church where about 2,000 Tutsis had tried to take shelter during the genocide, leading to the deaths all inside.

Hutu attackers burned down churches with hundreds or thousands of Tutsis inside.


On Monday, Pope Francis conveyed his "profound sadness" for the "genocide against the Tutsi", the Vatican said in a statement. Another Rwandan priest, Emmanuel Rukundo, was sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment by the same tribunal in 2009 for participating in the genocide, although this was reduced to 23 years in 2010.

Francis' pardon plea followed a request from Rwanda in November for the Vatican to apologise for the church's role in the massacres.

In the years since the genocide, the local Catholic Church had resisted efforts by the government and survivors' groups to acknowledge the church's complicity in mass murder, saying those church officials who committed crimes acted individually.

Pope Francis and the Vatican have remained tight lipped on the Church's involvement in the genocide, traditionally stating that it was not responsible for the mass killings in any way.

Mr Kagame, a Tutsi, led a rebel force to halt the slaughter in 1994 and accusations immediately surfaced that some priests and nuns had taken part in the killings. Global courts have indicted several Catholic priests for alleged involvement in the genocide.


The Rwandan government weighed in on the Church's failings when asking for an apology.

A statement from Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said that the meeting was "characterized by a spirit of openness and mutual respect".

The Vatican has, until now, maintained that the Church as an institution bore no responsibility.

Philip Gourevitch, the author of We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families, an account of the genocide, said the pope's statement was "a significant change of tone" but not an apology.

Human rights groups have also joined in the criticism of the church and its role in Rwanda's genocide.


Other reports by iNewsToday

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