March 23, 2017

Pope apologises for 'sins' in Rwanda

20 March 2017, 09:17 | Darnell Patrick

Pope apologises for 'sins' in Rwanda

Pope Francis holds audience with President of Rwanda

The Catholic Church in Rwanda previous year publicly sought forgiveness for the part played by some of its members, who it said had fanned the ethnic hatred that led to the killings.

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

"Evoking the gesture of Pope St. John Paul II during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, he implored anew God's forgiveness for the sins and failings of the Church and its members", the Vatican said.

Acknowledging the November 2016 apology by the Rwandan bishops, Francis asked that the Vatican's "humble recognition of the failings of that period" could contribute to renewed trust between the Catholic Church and the Rwandan authorities.

Rwanda's government indicated it felt the apology did not go far enough, saying the local church was still complicit in protecting the perpetrators of the genocide.

In 1996, St. John Paul II refused to take blame on the church's part for what transpired in Rwanda, saying in a letter to Rwandan bishops that: "The church in itself can not be held responsible for the misdeeds of its members who have acted against evangelical law".

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The Vatican's statement followed an official apology past year by Rwanda's Catholic bishops for "all the wrongs the church committed".

In 2006, Athanase Seromba - a former priest of Nyange Parish - was found guilty of genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity at the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. During Rwanda's annual dialogue in December, Kagame said he didn't understand why the church was so reluctant to apologize for genocide when popes have apologized for much lesser crimes. But the Rwandan government rejected the apology as "profoundly inadequate" and demanded a statement from the Vatican on the matter.

About half of Rwandans are Catholic, but since the genocide many have turned to pentecostal churches.

President Kagame and his entourage subsequently met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, who was accompanied by Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.

"Today's meeting was characterised by a spirit of openness and mutual respect", said Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo. Mushikiwabo said it was a "positive step forward" and that it "allows us to build a stronger base for restoring harmony between Rwandans and the Catholic Church".

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