Pope Francis has asked for forgiveness for the Catholic church’s role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which 800,000 people were slaughtered in 100 days of violence. The “sins and failings of the church and its members” had “disfigured the face” of Catholicism, he said.
Speaking after meeting the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, the Vatican acknowledged that some Catholic priests and nuns had “succumbed to hatred and violence” by participating in the genocide.
According to the Vatican, Francis “expressed the desire that this humble recognition of the failings of that period, which unfortunately disfigured the face of the church, may contribute to a ‘purification of memory’ and may promote, in hope and renewed trust, a future of peace”.
Between April and June 1994, an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu extremists in a wave of violence sparked by the death of the Rwandan president, Juvénal Habyarimana – a Hutu – when his plane was shot down. Violence spread from the capital, Kigali, throughout the country, encouraged by the presidential guard and radio propaganda.