– Pope meets Rwandan President Paul Kagame
– Breaks 23 year-old ice by apologizing for the role of church in genocide
During a brief meeting with Rwandan president Paul Kagame Monday, Pope Francis voiced his sadness for members of the Church who participated in the 1994 genocide, asking for forgiveness and assuring those who still suffer of his prayer.
According to a March 20 Vatican communique, during the meeting, the Pope “conveyed his profound sadness, and that of the Holy See and of the Church, for the genocide against the Tutsi.”
“He expressed his solidarity with the victims and with those who continue to suffer the consequences of those tragic event,” it read.
In imitation of St. John Paul II’s gesture during the Great Jubilee in 2000, Francis implored God’s forgiveness “for the sins and failings of the Church and its members, among whom priests, and religious men and women who succumbed to hatred and violence, betraying their own evangelical mission.”
Pope Francis, in light of a statement published by the Rwandan bishops at the conclusion of the Jubilee of Mercy asking forgiveness for the failure of the Church and her members, expressed his desire that his own “humble recognition” of the failings of that time, “which, unfortunately, disfigured the face of the Church, may contribute to a purification of memory.”
He also voiced his hope that the renewed apology “may promote, in hope and renewed trust, a future of peace, witnessing to the concrete possibility of living and working together, once the dignity of the human person and the common good are put at the center.”
The genocide began April 7, 1994, after controversy over the plane crash that killed the then-president of Rwanda, a Hutu. In the aftermath, Hutu extremists killed over 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
About 57 percent of Rwanda is Catholic, with another 37 percent Protestant or Seventh-Day Adventist. The churches have worked to bring about healing and reconciliation as well.
The Pope’s meeting with President Kagame, which lasted around 25 minutes, took place inside the Vatican’s apostolic palace and was conducted in English.
Source: Catholic News Agency