Rwanda, Vatican ties hit 50 years as officials call for 'sincere dialogue'

Rwanda and the Holy See contend that open and sincere discussions are crucial to ease the pain caused by what Rwandans and their leadership say is lack of atonement from the leadership of the Church.
Archbishop Thaddee Ntihinyurwa (R) with the Papal Nuncio Russo  (2nd right) and other clergy lead the mass to celebrate 50 years of Rwanda- Vatican relations at St Michel Cathedral. (John Mbanda)
Archbishop Thaddee Ntihinyurwa (R) with the Papal Nuncio Russo (2nd right) and other clergy lead the mass to celebrate 50 years of Rwanda- Vatican relations at St Michel Cathedral. (John Mbanda)

Rwanda and the Holy See contend that open and sincere discussions are crucial to ease the pain caused by what Rwandans and their leadership say is lack of atonement from the leadership of the Church.

The observations were made on Monday as Rwanda and the State of Vatican, commonly known as the Holy See, marked 50 years of diplomatic ties.

The call for dialogue comes after the relations between the two were strained in the aftermath of the Genocide against the Tutsi in which some Catholic Church leaders participated while several churches became killing grounds for the militiamen.

The Apostolic Nuncio, Monsignor Luciano Russo, said the Holy See and the Catholic Church are committed to ensuring excellent relations with Rwanda, especially through open and sincere dialogue.

“We have to continue on the road undertaken in favour of unity and reconciliation and to work together in view of a more beautiful future for the welfare of all the people of Rwanda,” he said.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Louise Mushikiwabo, said the government of Rwanda recognizes the role that the Catholic Church plays in Rwanda.

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Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo (3rd left) was among the congregation at St Michel to celebrate 50 years of Rwanda-Vatican relations Cathedral. (John Mbanda)

Downturn

Mushikiwabo, however, said the relationship suffered after the Genocide, a situation she said needs to be redeemed through sincere dialogue and relations.

“We want to respond to the message of dialogue conveyed tonight so that we can ease and move forward more smoothly and together,” she said in reference to a call for dialogue that was first made by Monsignor Smaragde Mbonyintege, the president of the Bishop’s Conference of Rwanda and Bishop of Kabgayi Diocese, during a mass.

“As it can happen in any relationship, Rwanda and Vatican and from the Vatican to the Church, we have had a very difficult episode in our relationship. But as it can also happen in any human settlement, to reconcile, to work together, to find common ground, to forge a common future was also possible and that is where my country stands,” the minister said.

The ceremony started with a Mass at Saint Michel Cathedral in Kigali, after which the ministry hosted a reception to mark the day at Kigali Serena Hotel, a gesture that was welcomed by Russo.

“The Catholic Church, in particular the Holy See, never abandoned Rwanda. On the contrary, it built important moments of preparation and engagement in building relations founded on peace and solidarity,” he said.

“We believe that it is also important how the government of Rwanda has contributed profoundly to the development of socio-economic development of all Rwandans with sustainable and visible actions.”

Development-oriented

Russo said the activities of the Holy See and the Catholic Church are attached to human investment toward development.

Last week, Amb. François-Xavier Ngarambe presented his credentials to the Holy Father Pope Francis as Rwanda’s envoy to the Holy See, with residence in Geneva, Switzerland.

The anniversary event was attended by members of the diplomatic corps and other top clerics, including Monsignor Mbonyintege, who also reiterated the importance of sincere dialogue in maintaining good relations.

Diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Rwanda were established on July 17, 1929, when Pope Pius XI created an apostolic delegation that, at the time, consisted of Congo, Burundi and Rwanda.

On June 6, 1964, following the decision by Pope Paul VI and the Government of Rwanda, diplomatic relations between the two were formally established with the election of an Apostolic Nuncio sent to Rwanda and the nomination of the first ambassador of Rwanda to Vatican.

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