Rwandan government demands apology from Vatican over 1994 genocide

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The Government of Rwanda has demanded an apology from the Vatican for the role played by members of the Catholic Church in the 1994 genocide against Tutsi,according a government statement released on Wednesday.

The demand comes days after Rwanda’s nine Catholic bishops apologized – in a general manner – for some of the acts committed by some members of the Catholic Church during the genocide which claimed the lives of about one million people.

“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,” it said in the statement.

Pope Francis last year made a surprise public apology for recent scandals “either in Rome or in the Vatican” during his weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square, but did not specify which scandals.

In the Wednesday statement meanwhile, Rwanda government said while the bishops step is welcome, as individual expressions of remorse, 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.”

“First, as they apologize 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,” it said.

It also wondered why some churches did not read out the apology statement as directed by the bishops.

“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 statement said.

Survivors say several clergy have blood of genocide victims on their hands.

For example Father Athanase Seromba is said to have ordered the bulldozing of his church in western Rwanda with 2,000 Tutsis inside and ordered the survivors shot.

Catholic monks reportedly helped him get to Italy, change his name and became a parish priest in Florence. Several catholic churches were turned into memorial sites.

On a lighter note, the Government of Rwanda commended the bishops on the importance of combating genocide ideology, and offered to continue to engage in an open and frank dialogue with Church leaders with a view towards encouraging the Catholic Church to face up to its own past without excuses or fear.

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