We didnt show that we are one family but instead killed each other, say bishops in statement marking the end of the holy year of mercy
The Catholic church in Rwanda apologised on Sunday for the churchs role in the 1994 genocide, saying it regretted the actions of those who participated in the massacres.
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 Gods commandments, said the statement by the Conference of Catholic Bishops, which was read out in parishes across the country.
The statement acknowledged that church members planned, aided and carried out the genocide, in which more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu extremists.
In the years since the genocide which was sparked by a contentious plane crash that killed the president, Juvnal Habyarimana, a Hutu the local church had resisted efforts by the government and groups of survivors to acknowledge the churchs complicity in mass murder, saying those church officials who committed crimes acted individually.
Many of the victims died at the hands of priests, clergymen and nuns, according to some accounts by survivors, and the Rwandan government said many died in the churches where they sought refuge.
The bishops statement is seen as a positive development in Rwandas efforts at reconciliation.
Forgive us for the crime of hate in the country to the extent of also hating our colleagues because of their ethnicity. We didnt show that we are one family but instead killed each other, the statement said.
Bishop Phillipe Rukamba, spokesman for the Catholic church in Rwanda, said the statement was timed to coincide with the formal end on Sunday of the holy year of mercy declared by Pope Francis to encourage greater reconciliation and forgiveness in his church and the world.
Tom Ndahiro, a Rwandan genocide researcher, said he hoped the churchs statement would encourage unity among Rwandans.
I am also happy to learn that in their statement, bishops apologise for not having been able to avert the genocide, he said.