Pope Francis Apologises for Rwandan Genocide

No Walk of Shame for the Pope, he has confessed and begged forgiveness.


When one thinks of the Catholic Church, one often thinks of an antiquated, backwards and, above all, unapologetic institution. Yet since the election of Pope Francis, things seem to have taken a turn for the best. Just a few weeks ago, the Pope met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame. During this meeting, the former extended a formal apology to the President for the implication of the Catholic Church in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which claimed the lives of near to 800,00 people in the 100 days of violence. Though the genocide was led for the most part by the Interahamwe militia ‘an estimated 5,000 people were killed at the Ntarama Catholic Church’ (The Guardian) and certain members of the clergy actively participated in the rape and murder of innocent people. Others aided perpetrators of the genocide to flee Rwanda and evade justice.

Pope Francis’s apology marks the ‘first time the Vatican has conceded that the Church as an institution bore some responsibility for the killings’ (The Week). Furthermore, the Pope asked for forgiveness ‘for the sins and failings of the Church and its members’ (BBC). Though this does not pardon those who committed such atrocities or undo the awful damage that was done, Pope Francis’ confession and apology marks a turning point in the relationship between the Rwandan government and the Catholic Church. Rwandan Foreign Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo stated that the meeting was “characterised by a spirit openness and mutual respect” and it has built “a stronger base for restoring harmony between Rwandans and the Catholic Church” (The Guardian).

In turn, this will hopefully allow for a more open, honest and accepting Catholic Church for, although Pope Francis’s apology cannot bring back the dead, as we all know, the first step in solving any problem is recognising there is one.



Sherwood, Harriet. “Pope Francis Asks for Forgiveness for Church’s Role in Rwanda Genocide.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 20 Mar. 2017. Web.

“Rwandan Genocide: Pope Francis Asks Forgiveness for Church Failings.” BBC News. BBC, 20 Mar. 2017. Web.

“Pope Begs Forgiveness.” The Week [London] 25 Mar. 2017, 117th ed., News sec.: 7. Print.

[Picture: Pope Francis with the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, and his wife, Jeannette Nyiramongi, during an audience at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. Photograph: Getty]


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