The Rwanda Catholic Church Sunday apologised for its priests’ role in the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis, which killed close to one million people.
The apology contained in a statement signed by nine Catholic Bishops who constitute the Episcopal Council was read after mass on Sunday.
“We apologise on behalf of all Christians for all forms of wrongs we committed.
“Forgive us for the crime of hate in the country to the extent of also hating our colleagues because of their ethnicity. We didn’t show that we are one family but instead killed each other. Forgive us for the crimes committed by priests and nuns and church leadership that promoted ethnic divisionism and hate,” the statement reads.
The statement also adds the Catholic Church had not instructed any of its members to commit genocide crimes.
Genocide scholars hailed the development, terming it as “landmark”, since the Catholic Church had remained unyielding to pressure to make a public apology for the last two decades.
The Rwandan government has accused the Catholic Church of offering “indispensable support” to the genocidal regime during the massacre and of failing to take a moral stand against it.
Thousands had been killed inside churches and church compounds where they had sought refuge.
Shortly after the genocide, a report by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union, described the Church in Rwanda as carrying a “heavy responsibility” for failing to oppose, and even promoting ethnic discrimination.
Since 1996, several clergy members of the Church have been convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity by Rwandan courts.
For more than two decades, the Vatican has maintained that, while individual clergymen were guilty of crimes, the Church as an institution bears no responsibility.
In April 2014, Pope Francis told the Rwandan Catholic bishops to work closely with the government and help Rwandans not be held back by genocide and its effects.
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