Twenty-two years ago, tens of thousands of Tutsi were hacked to death inside churches – sometimes on orders by priests and nuns.
For all these years, the Catholic church had not officially apologized for its role in planning, aiding and executing a horrible genocide against Tutsi which claimed a million lives in Rwanda.
However, Rwandans have a reason to celebrate Christmas this year with a sigh of relief. The Catholic church in Rwanda has finally admitted its role in the 1994 genocide against Tutsi.
In a letter dedicated to concluding the year of ‘Jubilee of God’s Mercy’ the Catholic bishops have apologized for their church’s role in the genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda.
The Bishops have also officially condemned genocide ideology in an apologetic letter read today after mass.
Just a Month after Genocide against Tutsi started in Rwanda, Pope John Paul II was the first to officially condemn the atrocities which he referred to as genocide and said those responsible would be held accountable by God and History.
However, the Vatican had maintained that those priests, those bishops, those nuns, those archbishops who planned and killed were not acting under the instruction of the church.
Referring to a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in May 2005, the Pope challenged Rwandan Bishops to face the truth, confront their history and all consequences that may arise.
The Rwandan Bishops have since 1994 consistently interacted with the leadership at the Vatican and have always met recurrent Popes to discuss the tough subject of genocide against Tutsi.
Most recently in April 2014 when they met Pope Francis, the Bishops were told, “work closely with government and help Rwandans not to be held back by genocide against Tutsi and its effects,” the letter reads.
“Remember very well in 2000, while celebrating 100 years of Christianity in Rwanda, we apologized on behalf of Rwandan Catholics that participated in the Genocide against Tutsi,” the Bishops said in a letter, adding that they want to use this year’s ‘Jubilee of God’s Mercy’ to apologise again.
“We apologize for all the wrongs we committed. we apologise on behalf of all Christians for all forms of wrongs we committed. We regret that church members violated oath of allegiance to God’s commandments.”
The Bishops in their apology further say, “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.”
“We apologize for all the wars that have occurred in this country. Forgive us for the crimes committed by priests and nuns and church leadership that promoted ethnic divisionism and hate,” The lengthy apology reads in part.
The apology emphasises that although the catholic church didn’t instruct any of its members to commit these crimes, the Bishops say, “we again apologize for the role of priests, nuns, Bishops and Christians in the genocide against Tutsi.”