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Pope apologizes for Church involvement in Rwandan genocide

March 20, 2017

Pope Francis apologized for the role that Catholics played in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, during a May 20 meeting with that country’s President Paul Kagame.

The said that the participation of some clerics in the massacres that cost 800,000 lives “disfigured the faces of the Church.” Invoking the example set by St. John Paul II in asking pardon for past failings during the Jubilee Year of 2000, he “implored anew 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.”

Last year the Catholic bishops of Rwanda had offered their own apology for the involvement of Church officials in the genocidal campaign. Pope Francis said that he hoped these apologies will help to achieve “purification of memory” and reconciliation in the country.

During his meeting with Kagame, the Pope also spoke about current Church-state relations, the troubles of Africa’s Great Lakes region, and especially the plight of migrants.


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  • Posted by: filioque - Mar. 22, 2017 4:12 PM ET USA

    Once again I am reminded of Joe Sobran's comment on these papal apologies: the vice of detraction masquerading as the virtue of contrition.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Mar. 21, 2017 1:52 PM ET USA

    "...sins and failings of the Church." Must be a figurative statement. But someone might get the wrong idea. More grist for the unbelievers among us. I read somewhere that "the gates of hell shall not prevail..."

  • Posted by: garedawg - Mar. 21, 2017 10:02 AM ET USA

    It's probably better to err on the side of apologizing needlessly rather than apologizing insufficiently.

  • Posted by: feedback - Mar. 20, 2017 10:27 PM ET USA

    Rwandan genocide had nothing to do with the Catholic Faith or the Catholic Church. Some Catholic clergy and religious in that country shamefully involved themselves in the atrocities out of purely ethnic hatred and not for religious reasons. But many other Catholics died as martyrs while protecting the Tutsis. In this case, the Pope's "apology" accepts the blame for the entire Church and really distorts the facts rather than "purifies memory."

  • Posted by: jeremiahjj - Mar. 20, 2017 7:32 PM ET USA

    The pope said that the "participation of some clerics in the massacres that cost 800,000 lives disfigured the faces of the Church?" What did the church do to these so-called clerics? I am grieved beyond words. Do we need another Reformation to hold the church accountable?