Pope Francis commemorates the 1994 genocide with Rwanda

Pope Francis has said that the Catholic Church in Rwanda needs to prioritize efforts of reconciliation and called on Catholics in Rwanda to play a major role of evangelization and reconstruction of the church.

The Pope made the remarks on April 3, while addressing Rwandan bishops, in Rome for their ad limina visits, where he also acknowledged the suffering of Rwandans during the genocide.

“I associate myself profoundly to the national mourning,” and he reflected, “Twenty years after those tragic events, reconciliation and the healing of wounds remain, certainly, the priority of the Church in Rwanda.” Francis said.

Francis said that he Church has her place in the reconstruction of a reconciled Rwandan society, with all the dynamism of its faith and of Christian hope and called for genuine forgiveness and reconciliation among Rwandans.

“The forgiveness of offenses and genuine reconciliation, which might seem impossible from a human point of view after so much suffering, is nevertheless a gift that it is possible to receive from Christ, with faith and prayer, even if the path is long and calls for patience, mutual respect and dialogue,” he said.

The Catholic Church in Rwanda played a major role in the genocide with many of its clergy and Christians taking part in the killing that claimed at least one million Tutsi’s. The Catholic Church in Rwanda has not come out openly to beg for forgiveness for what it did during the genocide.

However, Monsignor Smaragde Mbonyintege, the bishop of the Roman Catholic Church of Kabgayi, also spokesman of the Catholic Church says it is important for Rwandans to keep the momentum to work on their unity.

Leaders of different faith organisations have urged Rwandans to embrace values of unity, patriotism, and fraternity to improve their lives and build a stronger and more prosperous Rwanda in 2014.

In discussing national reconciliation, Pope Francis said to strengthen trust between Church and State, noting that the 50th anniversary of the start of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Rwanda was a perfect time to remember the benefits of this relationship during history.

 “A constructive and genuine dialogue with the authorities can only encourage concerted work of reconciliation and the reconstruction of society based on the values of human dignity, justice and peace,” he said. “Be an ‘outreach’ Church, able to take initiatives and build trust”

The Pope also underscored the essential contribution of the Church to the common good, especially in healthcare and education and highlighted the contributions of those who help widows, orphans, the sick, and the elderly affected by the genocide.

In regard to the education of youth of Rwanda, Francis said that it is the key to the future of a country where the population is renewed rapidly.

 “It is the duty of the Church to educate children and young people in the values of the Gospel which … will be, for them, a compass to show them the way. It is necessary for them to learn to be active and generous members of society, as the future is in their hands.” He said.



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