Most people are familiar with Galileo, the man with many talents who is also credited as the father of the telescope. He was also the proponent of the Copernican theory that the earth was round.
Despite being a devout Roman Catholic, he was twice tried and found guilty of heresy; advocating for a doctrine that was not in line with Church’s teachings, that the world was flat.
It took the Church and Pope John Paul II more than 400 years before they expressed regret at the way Galileo was treated, a sort of rehabilitation.
Today Rwanda is living its Galileo moments, after Pope Francis expressed remorse for the Church’s failings and involvement of its clergy in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Previous Vatican administrations had been struggling with that guilt but could never muster enough courage to come clean.
During the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, priests such as Fr. Athanase Seromba demolished their Church with the aid of bulldozers, bringing it down upon his 2,000-plus parishioners who had taken refuge there.
Many churches became killing fields largely with the connivance of the clergy, and for two decades, the Church has been living in denial. But it has taken just a few sincere words from the Pontiff to set it free.
That the Rwandan Catholic Church was trying to ransom itself out of guilt first came to the fore, late last year, when it gave some halfhearted apology which never went far enough. But the message was clear: The Church wanted to clean its slate and was just looking for an opportune moment.
Let the leaders of the Rwandan Church carry the Pope’s message from here; take it down to their many followers, that this time they mean it. That they are ready to deal bravely with their past and are truly willing to join the country in healing its wounds.