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Catholic Church tight-lipped over genocide

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Catholic faithful at a mass. The Catholic Church remains a refuge for a number of its priests accused of participation in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA

Catholic faithful at a mass. The Catholic Church remains a refuge for a number of its priests accused of participation in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

By Robert Mbaraga

Posted  Saturday, January 7   2017 at  13:43

In Summary

  • The church also has interests in seeing the matter resolved because should the status quo remain, the Rwandan government will continue with the accusations; it will be trapped in a permanent position of unmitigated guilt that will deny it the legitimacy to express any critical view of government conduct.

As 2016 receded into history, there was no indication of moderation in the debate over the Catholic Church’s role in Rwanda’s divisive politics.

All indications were that the Vatican would continue to be on the defensive during 2017 especially given that Kigali has upped ante against genocide fugitives.

The Catholic Church remains a refuge for a number of its priests accused of participation in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.

The topic which for weeks dominated formal and informal discussions around the country culminated in President Paul Kagame wondering why the church found it difficult to express remorse. He was speaking during the 14th edition of the National Dialogue (Umushyikirano) in Kigali last month.

“I don’t understand why the Pope would apologise for sexual offences, whether it is in the US, Ireland or Australia, but cannot apologise for the role of the Church in the genocide that happened here,” President Kagame said.

With 2016 closing without compromise all eyes are on Vatican after the Rwandan government made it clear it expects an apology from the Pope. 

Despite some lowering in the decibels, the church appears intransigent in the face of mounting pressure.

Bishop Philippe Rukamba, the spokesperson of the Conference of Rwandan Catholic Bishops said that an apology from the Vatican was “something that people can continue discussing” but maintained that the church would not apologise as an institution.

“There are cases in which the Pope has apologised like in the case of sexual offences, but he does not apologise in the name of the church. He rather does this for the priests who have gone against what the church preaches” Mr Rukamba said.

President Kagame, meanwhile has slightly lowered the standard of the requested apology compared with what his government has been asking for years that the church should offer a broader apology as an institution.

“I personally don’t view this apology as where someone will stand and say, I am apologising for the Catholic Church because it committed Genocide or ordered people to commit Genocide. This is not true.” President Kagame said.

“Even if it was apologising for the clergymen who committed genocide, why doesn’t he do it even here?” President Kagame asked.

Analysts say Rwanda’s demand is justifiable bearing in mind the famous “mea culpa” from Pope John Paul II in 1998 for “the inactivity and silence of many Catholics during the Holocaust.” They, however, caution that this might take a bit longer given that the latter was also issued 53 years after the event.

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