President Paul Kagame has closed a good deal with the Vatican for Rwanda. The Pontifex admitting that the Catholic Church was an accomplice to the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 is a historic chapter closed. It is irreversible.
It has been difficult for Rwanda to secure the Catholic’s acceptance that its Priests and Nuns committed genocide and “betrayed their own evangelical mission.”
“Being able to [acknowledge] for wrongs in [circumstances] like this is an act of courage and moral high standing typical Pontifex,” President Kagame tweeted after meeting Pope Francis on Monday.
A statement issued by the Office of the Government Spokesperson (OGS) after the meeting said that before 1994, Catholic institutions together with the colonial administration, “played a decisive role in dividing Rwandans and laying the intellectual foundation for genocide ideology.”
The statement added that “genocide suspects have been shielded from justice within Catholic institutions,” and with the evidence littered around, Rwandans were expecting the Pope to issue an outright apology to the victims. However, Vatican said the Pope only “implored anew God for forgiveness for the sins and failings of the Church and its members”
Rwandans welcomed the Pope’s courage to recognise the crimes committed by the church and its members as a step forward. “No question about it,” says Jeanine Munyeshuli, but she adds that, “I would never call the message above an apology.”
The ambiguity in the Pope’s apology lies in the person to whom the apology is addressed; not the victims of the genocide or the Rwandan community, but to God. He makes the same apology everyday at the alter. It is in the scripture; in the daily sermon…”Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins…”
Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, who and other officials including the First Lady had accompanied President Kagame, told Taarifa that the Pope, “acknowledged the role of the Church, beyond individual clergy people.” And this, she added, “Is an important step forward.”
Rwanda says this step, allows us to build a stronger base for restoring harmony between Rwandans and the Catholic Church.
Minister Mushikiwabo told us that, the Holy Father had invited President Kagame last month (February) for a dialogue.
Taarifa cannot confirm whether the invitation came before or after the tense exchange between participants during the 2016 National Dialogue where participants debated what would be the fate of the Church’s role in the genocide.
President Kagame interjected and said, “I don’t understand why the Pope would apologise for sexual offenses, whether it is in the US, Ireland or Australia, but cannot apologise for the role of the Church in the genocide that happened here.’’
Yet, little was known Kagame would make parallel remarks weeks later. Shortly after leaving the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on Monday, he tweeted that he had had a great day and great moment “meeting with Pope Francis.”
Unless naysayers trivialise this milestone, otherwise, as President Kagame said this is a “new chapter in relations between Rwanda and Catholic Church and the Holy See!”
Below CNN says the Pope apologised to President Kagame