Crime & Investigation

Rwanda: Catholic Church’s Genocide Apology ‘Profoundly Inadequate’

Catholic Bishop Smaragde Mbonyintege (R) speaking during a conference as EAR Archbishop Rwaje Onesphore (L) listens

The Government of Rwanda has piled pressure on the Catholic Church to fully apologise 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 Catholic Church in Rwanda this past Sunday regretted the actions of its members but maintained the church as a whole did not endorse the killings.

“Even though the church sent no body to do harm, sale we, the Catholic clerics in particular, apologise, again, for some of the church members, clerics, people who dedicated themselves to serve God and Christians in general who played a role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi,” the church said in a statement signed by 9 Bishops representing all the Dioceses in Rwanda.

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“We apologise for all Christians due to various crimes we committed, we are saddened by the fact that some of our followers ignored the vow with God through baptism and ignored God’s commandments.”

In a statement issued on Wednesday in Kigali, the government welcomed the recent initiative of Rwanda’s nine Catholic bishops to apologise as “individual expressions of remorse.”

However, reads the statement, “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.”

First, said government, as the Bishops apologise “on behalf of a few unnamed individuals, they appear to take the extraordinary step of exonerating the Catholic Church as a whole for any culpability in connection with the Genocide.”

The Government led by President Paul Kagame, whose RPF fighters stopped the genocide, went ahead to warn that, “Everything in the historical record contradicts this divisive claim.”

The African Union report on the mass slaughter previously said the Catholic Church in Rwanda was carrying a “heavy responsibility” for failing to oppose, and even promoting, ethnic discrimination.

The report observed that the church offered “indispensable support” to the Hutu regime during the genocide and said church leaders played “a conspicuously scandalous role” in the genocide by failing to take a moral stand against it.

“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,” the report said.

Some of the Catholic Church leaders reported to the genocidal regime about the Tutsi hiding in their churches to slaughter them.

The latest development underscores the government’s dissatisfaction with the Bishops’ sincerity.

The Rwandan government said it was “regrettable that some priests apparently declined to read the bishops’ message to parishioners as intended, thus disassociating themselves from even this mild expression of regret.”

It maintained that “given the scale of the crimes, there is ample justification for an apology from the Vatican, as has occurred repeatedly with other cases of lesser magnitude.”

Nevertheless, some leaders of the genocide victims associations commended the Bishops; move as a big step forward in the right direction.

The Government of Rwanda also commended the bishops’ points on the importance of combating genocide ideology, and pledged to continue engaging “in an open and frank dialogue with Church leaders with a view towards encouraging the Catholic Church to face up to its own past without excuses or fear, just as Rwandans themselves have been doing over the past twenty-two years.”


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