The bishops of Rwanda have issued an official statement demanding the media cease from implying the Catholic Church bears some responsibility for the killings in 1994 that took the lives almost 500,000 people.
“To accuse the Catholic Church of not recognizing its share of blame in the spreading of a genocidal ideology in Rwanda is without basis. The Church is right to not acknowledge a crime it did not commit,” said the bishops.
The nine bishops of the country did acknowledge the individual responsibility—but not institutional—of some clergy members regarding the massacres.
The bishops’ statement came in response to a government report on the “persistence of genocidal ideology,” in which the Church is accused of practicing ethnic segregation in the choosing of members of the clergy.
The bishops’ response was energetic, and one of the signers of the statement is Bishop Augustin Misago of Gikongoro, who was detained in 1999 after he was accused of participating in the genocide. The bishop was released two years later and declared innocent by a court.
In 1994, extremist militias and the government army massacred more than 500,000 Tutsi and Hutu Rwandans.
Currently, Rwandan priest Father Athanase Seromba is being tried for war crimes in connection with the killing of more than two thousand Tutsis who had taken refuge in a church in Nyange, in the country’s western region.