Pope apologises for 'sins' in Rwanda

Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka

Vatican City: Pope Francis on Monday begged forgiveness for the church's failures during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide in which close to one million ethnic Tustis were killed. He continued that tradition after speaking with Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, and asking for forgiveness for the role the Catholic church played in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.

A statement from the Vatican released on Monday said the pope expressed his solidarity with the [genocide] victims and with those who continue to suffer the consequences of those tragic events.

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. Global courts have indicted several Catholic priests for alleged involvement in the genocide.

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.

In an extraordinary statement after Francis' meeting with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, the Vatican acknowledged that the church itself bore blame, as well as some Catholic priests and nuns who "succumbed to hatred and violence, betraying their own evangelical mission" by participating in the genocide.

The Catholic Church in Rwanda past year publicly apologised for the actions of some Catholics and priests during the genocide that lasted around 100 days in 1994.

The Catholic Church in Rwanda past year offered an apology, saying some of its members had fanned the ethnic hatred that led to the killings, but Kagame said at the time that he wanted the Pope himself to say sorry.

An global tribunal set up to prosecute perpetrators of the genocide convicted a Rwandan Catholic priest, Athanase Seromba, in 2006 of genocide by aiding and abetting extermination; Seromba was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

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

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

But 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.

A United Nations court in 2006 jailed a former Catholic priest for 15 years for ordering bulldozers to level a church, killing 2,000 people who were hiding inside. A French judge dismissed the case against Munyeshyaka in 2015 due to a lack of evidence.

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