Published: Tue, March 21, 2017
Global Media | By Meredith Barber

Pope apologises for 'sins' in Rwanda

Pope apologises for 'sins' in Rwanda

Pope Francis has been a history-making pope in that he often acknowledges sins and failings of the Catholic church.

On Monday, Pope Francis conveyed his "profound sadness" for the "genocide against the Tutsi", the Vatican said in a statement.

During the 100-day genocide, over 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu extremists, many at the hands of priests, clergymen and nuns, according to some accounts by survivors. The bloodshed was spurred on by propaganda and the military guard encouraging the killing of Tutsis as revenge.

About 200 priests and nuns - Tutsi and Hutu - were among those slaughtered.

Numerous victims died at the hands of priests, clergymen and nuns, according to some accounts by survivors, and the Rwandan government says many died in the churches where they had sought refuge.

The United Nations has criticized the Catholic Church in the past for its failure to apologize for its complicity in the killings. Another, Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, helped draw up lists of people to be killed and raped young women, according to charges issued by the UN's global criminal tribunal for Rwanda in 2005.

5,000 Tutsis were killed in August 15, 1994 in the Ntarama Catholic Church, a site of one of the biggest massacres during the period. 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.

Once the massacres started, instead of using his political affiliations to urge the regime to stop the killing, he refused even to call it genocide.

The Catholic Church in Rwanda a year ago 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.

In a statement read in churches throughout Rwanda Nov. 20, the country's bishops apologized for "all the wrongs the church committed" during the genocide.

Groups such as African Rights, who have researched the mass slaughter, say there is "overwhelming evidence that church leaders maintained their silence in the face of genocide", according to a 1998 report.

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.

Carla del Ponte, the worldwide tribunal's chief prosecutor, later accused the Vatican of obstructing Seromba's extradition to face trial.

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

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

Like this: