On March 1, 1998, Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews issued a statement “We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah”. The commission headed by Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy appealed to Catholics to renew “the awareness of the Hebrew roots of their faith.
...that Jesus was a descendant of David; that the Virgin Mary and the Apostles belonged to the Jewish people...”
The statement insists it was not a matter of mere words, but indeed of binding commitment. “We would risk causing the victims of the most atrocious deaths to die again if we do not have an ardent desire for justice, if we do not commit ourselves to ensure that evil does not prevail over good as it did for millions of the children of the Jewish people ... Humanity cannot permit all that to happen again”.
The Cassidy Commission called for a deeper reflection. “The victims from their graves, and the survivors through the vivid testimony of what they have suffered, have become a loud voice calling the attention of all of humanity.
To remember this terrible experience is to become fully conscious of the salutary warning it entails: the spoiled seeds of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism must never again be allowed to take root in any human heart.”
The statement came 53 years after the defeat of Hitler and his Third Reich. Are we to wait until 2051, or forever, for a similar Church statement about the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi?
On July 26, 2004 the Rwandan Episcopal Conference wrote a strongly-worded rebuttal of a Rwandan Parliamentary Report which cited the Catholic Church as one of the organisations involved in spreading genocidal ideology.
On August 21, the L’Osservatore Romano, published a translation signed by the head of the Rwandan bishops’ conference, Archbishop Thaddee Ntihinyurwa of Kigali, and bishops from Rwanda’s eight other dioceses.
In January 2004, Rwanda’s Parliament had set up a special commission to look into the killings of genocide survivors in the southern province of Gikongoro. The commission identified people or organizations it said held genocidal ideas.
The prelates rubbished the report as something which “serves as a pretext to spread rumors, to judge people by their intentions and to generate unending hatred,” the letter said.
The bishops denied the Catholic Church spread genocidal ideas, protected people guilty of genocide, or ordained mostly Hutu priests.
They reiterated the words of Pope John Paul II that the church could not be held responsible for the errors of its members.
They said. “The Catholic Church affirms that genocide is such a serious sin that it cannot protect whoever admits to being guilty.” And, that: “The church has asked all its members who have committed this crime to have the courage to admit their sins.”
Thus far, there has not been a single case of a Catholic priest or a nun who has pleaded guilty to genocide, or even genocide denial. It is highly improbable that the church has ever encouraged its members to have the courage to admit “their sins” if genocide is one of them.
For instance, among the signatories of the report, Bishop Anastase Mutabazi of Kabgayi and Bishop Kizito Bahujimihigo of Ruhengeri, have since been forced to resign from their duties.
The exit of the two prelates is significant. Reliable information indicates they were disgraced because of cases of “sex-scandal” and “financial mismanagement.”
Neither has been accused of genocide. Indeed, no one in the Catholic establishment in Rwanda has ever been held accountable by the church for a genocide-related issue. Not because they are all innocent.
One of the signatories of the above letter, Bishop Alexis Habiyambere, of Nyundo Diocese, is responsible for the transfer of Fr. Seromba to the Diocese of Florence in Italy. As a Diocesan priest, the genocidaire would not have been allowed to perform his duties there, without authorization from his original diocese.
There are many more cases of Rwandan priests who have escaped the arm of the law with the complicity of their Bishops. Most of them are in Europe, especially Italy.
There is ample evidence to prove the role of the Catholic Church in nurturing Hutu Power hate ideology, some clergy’s physical participation in the genocide, and genocide denial. This can’t be possible without some inbuilt institutional impunity.
What the pontiff admitted in May, 2010, is what I wrote over ten years ago.
In June 1999, I wrote an article in the weekly Imvaho Nshya No 1288, with a title “Kiliziya Gatolika Iritoteza,” meaning, “The Church’s persecution was from within”.
In September 2000, I wrote another article (Imvaho Nshya N° 1354) titled: “Icyaha Cyugarije Kiliziya no kuli Altari” meaning, “The sin had dominated the Church to the altar”.
It still does!
To deny the obvious is to promote impunity and to insult the survivors’ memory.
To deny the Church’s involvement in the genocide against the Tutsi is to deny the genocide itself.