The Catholic Church has apologized for its role in the 1994 genocide that left more than 800,000 people dead in Rwanda. According to the AP, a statement by the Conference of Catholic Bishops that was read out in Rwandese parishes admits that “church members planned, aided, and executed the genocide, in which ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu extremists.”
In the statement, the Catholic Church officially appealed to Rwandans for forgiveness:
Forgive us for the crime of hate in the country to the extent of also hating our colleagues because of their ethnicity. We didn’t show that we are one family, but instead killed each other.
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We apologize for all the wrongs the church committed. We apologize on behalf of all Christians for all forms of wrongs we committed. We regret that church members violated [their] oath of allegiance to God’s commandments.
Bishop Phillipe Rukamba, spokesman for the Catholic Church in Rwanda, added that the statement was meant to coincide with the last Sunday of the Holy Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis to encourage greater reconciliation and forgiveness in the church and the world.
In the past, the Catholic Church denied its involvement in the genocide, despite witness accounts to the contrary.
According to Newsweek, the genocide was catalyzed by the alleged assassination of the then-President Juvénal Habyarimana.
Habyarimana was a Hutu and many of his followers suspected that the Tutsi community conspired to kill him.
In retaliation, the Hutus, who dominated government as well as militia, hunted down and killed members of the Tutsi community.
The Tutsi rebels known as the Rwandan Patriotic Front, were led by current President Paul Kagame, who helped restored order in the country after 100 days.