Kigali is demanding an apology from the Vatican for its priests’ role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis, terming the recent expression of regret by the Rwandan Catholic Church as “inadequate”.
On Wednesday, the government said whereas it recognised the apology issued by the church’s Episcopal Council, which was read after mass on Sunday, it failed to explicitly express remorse.
“The Government of Rwanda notes the recent initiative of Rwanda’s nine Catholic bishops to apologise, in a general manner, for some of the acts committed by some members of the Catholic Church during the Genocide against the Tutsis.
“This step is welcome, as individual expressions of remorse. However, its profound inadequacy only serves to highlight how far the Catholic Church still remains from a full and honest reckoning with its moral and legal responsibilities,” the government’s statement reads.
Rwanda and the Roman Catholic Church continue to disagree on the church’s role in the massacre that saw hundreds of thousands killed.
Kigali has also been pushing the church to strip and excommunicate its clergy found guilty of abetting killings, but the latter remains adamant on the matter saying priests can only be discharged from service but retain their titles.
After mass on Sunday, Rwandan bishops apologised saying: “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,” in the statement read in parishes across the country.
To the government the apology was neither explicit nor sufficient.
“First, as they apologise on behalf of a few unnamed individuals, the bishops appear to take the extraordinary step of exonerating the Catholic Church as a whole for any culpability in connection with the genocide. Everything in the historical record contradicts this divisive claim.
“Second, it is regrettable that some priests apparently declined to read the bishops’ message to parishioners as intended, thus disassociating themselves from even this mild expression of regret,” the government statement reads.
Vatican should apologise
Rwanda wants the Vatican to take responsibility of the crimes committed by the Catholic Church or its members and for the thousands slaughtered in churches where they had sought refuge.
“Given the scale of the crimes, there is ample justification for an apology from the Vatican, as has occurred repeatedly with other cases of lesser magnitude,” Kigali said.
Last year, Pope Francis issued a public apology for a series of scandals involving priests including homosexuality, sexual abuse and drug use.
But for the last two decades, the Vatican has maintained that while individual clergy were guilty of the terrible crimes in Rwanda, the church as an institution bears no responsibility.
In the bishops’ apology, the church said it did not send any of its members or clergy to commit genocide crimes.
While several priests and nuns of the church have been convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity by Rwandan courts, others are said to have eluded justice because of the protection of the Vatican.