Rwanda Demands Vatican Apology for Church’s Role in Genocide

Rwanda’s government has demanded an apology from the Vatican over the Catholic Church’s role in the country’s 1994 genocide, dismissing the recent apology offered by Rwandan bishops.

The Catholic Church in Rwanda issued a statement that was intended to be read at churches across the country on Sunday, apologizing for “all the wrongs the church committed” during the genocide.

Around 800,000 people—mostly members of the Tutsi minority—were killed by extremists from the Hutu ethnic majority over just 100 days in 1994. Several Roman Catholic priests have been accused of participating in or facilitating the mass murder and many Tutsis were killed in churches after seeking refuge during the genocide.

The Rwandan government called the bishops’ apology “profoundly inadequate” and said it highlighted “how far the Catholic Church still remains from a full and honest reckoning with its moral and legal responsibilities.”

Rwandan genocide church Caskets holding the remains of victims rest on pews as their blood-stained clothing hangs from the rafters inside the Ntarama Catholic Church, Nyamata, Rwanda, for a memorial ahead of the 20th anniversary of the country's genocide, April 4, 2014. The Rwandan government has demanded an apology from the Vatican for the church's role in the country's genocide. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The government response, issued Wednesday, added that some priests had reportedly declined to read the statement to parishioners.

“Given the scale of the crimes, there is ample justification for an apology from the Vatican, as has occurred repeatedly with other cases of lesser magnitude,” said the statement.

The Vatican has previously apologized for the Catholic Church’s position on various issues. In 1998, Pope John Paul II apologized to Jews for the church’s failure to speak out during the Holocaust, in which six millions Jews were killed in a program of mass murder perpetrated by the Nazi regime in Germany.

The current pontiff, Pope Francis, has said that the Catholic Church should apologize for mistreating gay people and women, and for turning a blind eye to child labor.

Around half of Rwanda’s population are Roman Catholic.