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Pope Francis speaks out on Genocide against Tutsi

21 March 2017, 01:06 | Taylor George

Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka

Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka

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.

President Paul Kagame on Monday held talks with Pope Francis at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City.

The pope expressed his solidarity with the victims and their loved ones and "implored anew God's forgiveness for the sins and failings of the Church and its members, among whom [were] priests, and religious men and women who succumbed to hatred and violence".

According to the Vatican, Francis "expressed the desire that this 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 Catholic Church in Rwanda past year apologised for its members' role in the genocide, and asked forgiveness for the "crime of hate in the country to the extent of also hating our colleagues due to their ethnicity".

An estimated 800,000 people were killed in the African country in 1994 when Hutu extremists targeted members of the Tutsi population and other government opponents.

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.

Kagame, a Tutsi, was the leader of a rebel force that helped bring an end to the slaughter.

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Rwanda has criticized the Catholic Church in the past for its failure to apologize for its complicity in the killings. 'We apologize for some church members and clergy-people dedicated to serving God and Christians who played a role in the genocide, ' a statement from the country's nine bishops said.

But the Rwandan government said the local apology was not sufficient considering the crimes committed.

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

Both Pope Francis and President Paul Kagame acknowledged that while many priests and nuns took part in the killings in Rwanda, there were some who were victims themselves.

Numerous 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.

"It allows us to build a stronger base for restoring harmony between Rwandans and the Catholic Church", she added in a statement released by the presidency.

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.

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



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