Pope Francis has expressed his profound sadness, that of the Holy See and of the Church, for the genocide against the Tutsi and the Catholic Church’s role in the 1994 tragic events.
The Pope was Monday meeting Rwandan President Paul Kagame at the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City. He expressed his solidarity with the victims and with those who continue to suffer the consequences of those tragic events.
Evoking the gesture of Pope Saint John Paul II during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, Pope Francis implored anew God’s forgiveness for the sins and failings of the Church and its members, among whom priests who succumbed to hatred and violence, betraying their own evangelical mission.
Rwandan government has been piling pressure on the church, demanding full apology not only for its members but also the institution’s role in the 1994 genocide in which a million Tutsi were slaughtered in cold blood.
The Church in November 2016 would issue a statement of apology which the Rwandan government deemed ‘inadequate.’
“Its profound inadequacy only serves to highlight how far the Catholic Church still remains from a full and honest reckoning with its moral and legal responsibilities,” Rwandan government commented about the church’s apology.
In light of the recent Holy Year of Mercy and of the Statement published by the Rwandan Bishops at its conclusion, Pope Francis expressed the desire that this humble recognition of the failings of that period, which 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, witnessing to the concrete possibility of living and working together, once the dignity of the human person and the common good are put at the centre.
According to Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo who accompanied President Kagame to the Vatican, the President commended the Church’s contributions to Rwanda’s socio-economic development, particularly in the education and health sectors
Before 1994, Catholic institutions and missions, together with the colonial administration are said to have played a decisive role in dividing Rwandans and laying the intellectual foundation for genocide ideology.
As of today, genocide denial and trivialization continue to flourish in certain groups within the Church and genocide suspects have been shielded from justice within Catholic institutions.
Minister Mushikawabo further revealed that the meeting was characterized by a spirit of openness and mutual respect.
“It is a positive step forward in the relationship between Rwanda and the Holy See, based on a frank and shared understanding of Rwanda’s history and the imperative to combat genocide ideology. It allows us to build a stronger base for restoring harmony between Rwandans and the Catholic Church,” he said.
He added that “Rwanda’s progress in reconciliation and economic development was noted, including the fact that survivors and repentant perpetrators have learned to live and work side-by-side, and that shared Catholic faith has facilitated these efforts and provided comfort.”
There was also an exchange of views about the political, social and regional situation, with attention to those places that are suffering conflicts and natural calamities.
A particular concern was expressed for the large number of refugees and migrants in need of help and support from the international community and from regional structures.
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