President Paul Kagame on Monday held talks with Pope Francis at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City.
During the meeting, President Kagame and the Pope discussed the relationship between the two states as well as the role of the church in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said that the deliberations were largely aimed at building positive ties between the two parties considerate of historic events.
“Yesterday's meeting was characterised by a spirit of openness and mutual respect. It is a positive step forward in the relationship between Rwanda and the Holy See, based on a frank and shared understanding of Rwanda’s history and the imperative to combat genocide ideology, it allows us to build a stronger base for restoring harmony between Rwandans and the Catholic Church” Mushikiwabo said in a statement.
According to a statement from the Vatican, in regard to the role of the church in the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, Pope Francis expressed his solidarity with the victims and with those who continue to suffer the consequences of those tragic events.
It indicates the Pope sought for God’s forgiveness for the failure of the church and its members among priests and followers who got involved in the genocide.
The pope also expressed his solidarity with the victims and with those who continue to suffer the consequences of those tragic events.
“He implored a new 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,” the Vatican statement said.
In regard to the statement published by Rwandan Bishops last year on the involvement of some if its members in the genocide, the pope said it may contribute to a new relationship of the two parties.
“In light of the recent Holy Year of Mercy and of the Statement published by the Rwandan Bishops at its conclusion, the Pope also 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…..” it said.
Catholic institutions and missions are said to have worked in collaboration with the colonial administration in creating divisions among Rwandans laying the foundation for genocide ideology.
Other than laying the ground for genocide, a section of Catholic clerics were active perpetrators and have since been indicted for crimes of Genocide.
Despite ongoing efforts of awareness and dealing with genocide ideology, the government statement notes that genocide denial and trivialisation continues to flourish in certain groups within the Church and genocide suspects have been shielded from justice within Catholic institutions.
Some of the clergy indicted are still in the active service in the Catholic Church in various locations across the world despite efforts to bring them to justice.
According to the Foreign Affairs Minister, President Kagame lauded the church’s contribution in the areas of education and health where the institution is actively involved.
The President and the Pope also discussed about the growing concern of refugees and migrants in need of help and support from the international community and from regional structures.