Seeking forgiveness from Rwandan President Paul Kagame for the "sins and failings" of the Catholic Church during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Pope Francis expressed solidarity with the victims and with those who continue to suffer the consequences of the horror.
During a meeting with Kagame at the Vatican, the Pope acknowledged that priests, nuns and members of the Catholic church had succumbed to hatred and violence in Rwanda, "betraying their own evangelical mission," the Vatican said in a statement. Rwanda's foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo, who accompanied President Kagame on the trip, said the meeting was a positive step forward, adding that it allows the country to build a stronger base for restoring harmony between Rwandans and the Catholic Church.
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In November, the Catholic Church in Rwanda apologized for its members' role in the genocide that saw hundreds of thousands of Rwandans killed in 1994. In 1994, Hutu extremists in Rwanda targeted minority ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in a three-month killing spree that left an estimated 800,000 people dead. Hutu attackers burned down churches with hundreds or thousands of Tutsis inside.
The violence was triggered by the death of President Juvénal Habyarimana, an ethnic Hutu, in a plane crash on April 6, 1994. Four Catholic priests were indicted by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for their role in the genocide in 2001. Among them was Rwandan Catholic Priest Athanse Seromba, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for actively participating in the massacre of around 2,000 Tutsis who sought protection in his church. The United Nations has criticized the Catholic Church in the past for its failure to apologize for its complicity in the killings.
With inputs from ANI.
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