Remembering Rwanda: On 20th anniversary of genocide, pope urges reconciliation

Rosaries hang among the personal possessions of genocide victims at a memorial inside the church in Ntarama, Rwanda. Some 5,000 people, mostly women and children, sought refuge near the church in April 1994, but were massacred by Hutu extremists.

Just days before Rwanda was to begin a weeklong period of official mourning to mark the 20th anniversary of its genocide, Pope Francis urged the country's bishops to be resolute in continuing the work of healing and reconciliation.

"Twenty years after those tragic events," when as many as 1 million people were murdered in savage acts of ethnic violence, Pope Francis said, "reconciliation and the healing of wounds must remain the priority of the church in Rwanda."

Advertisement

Meeting the country's bishops April 3 during their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican, the pope offered his prayers for all Rwandans "without distinction of religion, ethnicity or politics."

Forgiveness for what happened and "authentic reconciliation can seem impossible from a human point of view," the pope said, but they are gifts people can "receive from Christ through a life of faith and prayer."

"The path is long and requires patience, mutual respect and dialogue," he said.

Rwandans will begin an official week of mourning April 7 to mark the anniversary of the genocide, in which mostly Tutsis and some moderate Hutus, ethnic groups with a history of rivalry, were killed. Some massacres took place in churches; in some cases, entire congregations were murdered. Leaders of various Christian churches, including the Catholic Church, were implicated in the violence because of ties to one or the other ethnic group.

Pope Francis said the schools and hospitals the Catholic Church operates in Rwanda have an essential role to play in ensuring a future of peace in the country, but nothing they do can be as effective as Catholics being united in love and allowing "the Gospel to touch and convert their hearts."

"It is important that, overcoming prejudice and ethnic divisions, the church speaks with one voice, demonstrating its unity," Pope Francis told the bishops.

Pope Francis also encouraged the bishops to do everything possible to strengthen "relationships of trust between the church and state," saying that, too, would contribute to reconciliation in the country. "A constructive and authentic dialogue with the authorities can favor common works of reconciliation and the reconstruction of society based on the values of human dignity, justice and peace."

The pope also encouraged Rwanda's Catholics to entrust themselves to the maternal care of Mary, who appeared to three young Rwandan girls in the 1980s at Kibeho.

"The mother of Jesus wanted to show herself to your country's children, reminding them of the effectiveness of fasting and prayer, especially the rosary," Pope Francis said. "It is my ardent hope that you can make the shrine of Kibeho once again radiate the love of Mary for her children, especially the poorest and those who are wounded."

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Secretary of Education stirred up controversy when she said it was up to schools to decide if an undocumented student should be reported to authorities.
J.D. Long-GarcíaMay 25, 2018
Thousands gathered in Dublin May 12 to say "Love Both" and "Vote No" to abortion on demand. They were protesting abortion on demand in the forthcoming referendum May 25. (CNS photo/John McElroy)
“Priests and bishops get verbal abuse by being told, ‘How can you speak for women? You don’t know what it’s like!’”
America StaffMay 25, 2018
The coffin containing the body of St. John XXIII is seen during a ceremony in Vittorio Veneto Square after its arrival in Bergamo, Italy, May 24. The body of the late pope left the Vatican on May 24 to be displayed in his home region until June 10. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

BERGAMO, Italy (CNS) — Accompanied by Bishop Francesco Beschi of Bergamo and escorted by both Italian and Vatican police officers, the glass coffin containing the body of St. John XXIII left the Vatican early on May 24 for a 370-mile drive to Bergamo.

On this week's episode, we talk with Lieutenant Governor of Washington State, Cyrus Habib.
Olga SeguraMay 25, 2018