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20 March 2017, 09:42 | Erica Roy
Pope apologises for 'sins' in Rwanda
Francis said he echoed late pope St John Paul's apology at the Jubilee in 2000 for the sins of the Church's members, "including priests, religious men and women who gave in to hatred and violence, betraying their evangelical mission".
Some 800,000, and perhaps as many as 1 million people - most of whom belonged to the Tutsi ethnic group - died in the ferocious bloodshed carried out from April to July 1994.
In the statement, the Pope "expressed the desire that this humble recognition of the failings of that period, which unfortunately disfigured the face of the church, may contribute to a "purification of memory" and may promote, in hope and renewed trust, a future of peace". During Rwanda's annual dialogue in December, Kagame said he didn't understand why the church was so reluctant to apologize for genocide when popes have apologized for much lesser crimes.
Rwanda's President Paul Kagame is welcomed by Pope Francis during a private meeting at the Vatican, March 20.
The Vatican's statement followed an official apology previous year by Rwanda's Catholic bishops for "all the wrongs the church committed". "We regret that church members violated their oath of allegiance to God's commandments" and that some Catholics were involved in planning, aiding and carrying out the massacres.
The Catholic Church in Rwanda previous year publicly sought forgiveness for the part played by some of its members, who it said had fanned the ethnic hatred that led to the killings.
An global tribunal set up to prosecute perpetrators of the genocide convicted a Rwandan Catholic priest, Athanase Seromba, in 2006 of genocide by aiding and abetting extermination; Seromba was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The ministry of local government rejected the apology then as inadequate.
President Kagame and his entourage subsequently met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, who was accompanied by Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States. The church has long said those church officials who committed crimes acted individually.
A statement from Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said that the meeting was "characterized by a spirit of openness and mutual respect".
"Today, genocide denial and trivialisation continue to flourish in certain groups within the church and genocide suspects have been shielded from justice within Catholic institutions", a statement said. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Rwandan authorities have said other clergy implicated in the killings were allowed to start new lives in Europe and were protected by the church.
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