Ibuka, the umbrella body of organisations representing Genocide survivors, has thanked President Paul Kagame for initiating the dialogue with the Vatican.
The pontiff “conveyed his profound sadness, and that of the Holy See and of the Church, for the Genocide against the Tutsi,” the Vatican said in a statement following a meeting yesterday between Pope Francis and President Kagame.
Thousands of the Catholic Church members, including priests, were implicated in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
Ibuka president Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu said: “Because of the different actions by Pope Francis, we had always been hopeful that he would eventually say something about the role of the Catholic Church in the Genocide, unlike his predecessors.”
“We want to thank President Kagame for initiating the dialogue with the Holy See. This is good timing, the Pope has pronounced himself ahead of the commemoration of the Genocide and we expect his message to be echoed across the country during the commemoration period.”
Dusingizemungu said they also believe that this development will generally facilitate the fight against Genocide denial because of the place of the Catholic Church in the global order.
“This should also facilitate the hunt for those responsible for the Genocide, especially the clergy like Munyeshyaka. I don’t expect him back at the pulpit after this pronouncement by the pope.”
Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, a Roman Catholic priest, has continued his pastoral duties in France for more than two decades despite an indictment against him by an international tribunal after he was implicated in killings in Kigali, mainly at St Famille Church, where he was the vicar.
On the way forward, Dusingizemungu said they had initiated an engagement with the Episcopal Conference and “we believe this announcement will render a momentum to these efforts.”
“Now we want to see more role by the Catholic Church in the socio-economic rehabilitation of the society, mainly for survivors of the Genocide.”
The Bishop of Butare Diocese, Monsignor Philippe Rukamba, said it was good that the two leaders met and held talks but noted that he cannot ably tell what happens next.
The National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) executive secretary, Jean Damascène Bizimana, said what the pontiff has done is “a good step because it is the very first time a leader of the Catholic Church admits the role the Church played in the Genocide and asks for forgiveness.”
Bizimana especially recalls that in 1996, the then pontiff - Pope Saint John Paul II sent a message to senior leaders of the Catholic Church in Rwanda asking them to ask for forgiveness but they did not.
“But now, after 20 years, this new pope has made this step. I see a new development in this,” he said.
However, Bizimana noted, the current pontiff and the Vatican need to make an extra step and do whatever it takes to rein in or condemn catholic priests like Fortunatus Rudakemwa, Thomas Nahimana and Theophile Murengerantwari “who continue to spread genocide ideology and denial [abroad],” which are crimes against humanity.