By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Meeting Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Pope Francis asked
God’s forgiveness for the failures of the Catholic Church during the 1994
Rwanda genocide and for the hatred and violence perpetrated by some priests and
“He implored anew God’s forgiveness for the sins and
failings of the church and its members, among whom priests and religious men
and women who succumbed to hatred and violence, betraying their own evangelical
mission,” said a Vatican statement released March 20 after the meeting of
the pope and president.
Some 800,000, and perhaps as many as 1 million people —
most of whom belonged to the Tutsi ethnic group — died in the ferocious
bloodshed carried out from April
to July 1994.
“In light of the recent Holy Year of Mercy and of the statement
published by the Rwandan Bishops at its conclusion” in November, the
Vatican said, “the pope also 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, 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 center.”
Pope Francis “conveyed his profound sadness, and that
of the Holy See and of the church, for the genocide against the Tutsi,”
the Vatican said. “He expressed his solidarity with the victims and with
those who continue to suffer the consequences of those tragic events.”
In President Kagame’s 25-minute private meeting with the
pope, as well as during his meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary
of state, note was made of “the collaboration between the state and the
local church in the work of national reconciliation and in the consolidation of
peace for the benefit of the whole nation,” the Vatican said.
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. “We regret that church members
violated their oath of allegiance to God’s commandments” and that some
Catholics were involved in planning, aiding and carrying out the massacres.
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