The Catholic church must apologise for its role in Rwanda's genocide
The Vatican's reluctance to confront those accused of murder in its midst is rooted in its refusal to face up to the church's complicity in the events of 1994The Guardian | April 8, 2014 | Chris McGreal
There is a Roman Catholic priest at a medieval church an hour's drive from Paris who has been indicted by a United Nations court for genocide, extermination, murder and rape in Rwanda.
Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka was notorious during the 1994 genocide of 800,000 Tutsis for wearing a gun on his hip and colluding with the Hutu militia that murdered hundreds of people sheltering in his church. A Rwandan court convicted the priest of genocide and sentenced him in absentia to life in prison. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda spent years trying to bring him to trial.
But the Catholic church in France does not see any of this as a bar to serving as a priest and has gone out of its way to defend Munyeshyaka.
It's not an isolated case. After the genocide, a network of clergy and church organisations brought priests and nuns with blood on their hands in Rwanda to Europe and sheltered them. They included Father Athanase Seromba who ordered the bulldozing of his church with 2,000 Tutsis inside and had the survivors shot. Catholic monks helped him get to Italy, change his name and become a parish priest in Florence.
After Seromba was exposed, the international tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, accused the Vatican of obstructing his extradition to face trial. The Holy See told her the priest was "doing good works" in Italy. Another Rwanda priest taken on in Italy is facing charges of overseeing the massacre of disabled Tutsi children.
The Vatican's reluctance to confront the murderers in its midst is rooted in its refusal to face up to the church's complicity in mass murder. But as Rwanda marks the 20th anniversary of the genocide, the time has come for Pope Francis to follow his own lead on paedophile priests and apologise for the part played by the clergy in turning churches into extermination centres. The Vatican should accompany a plea for forgiveness with a calling to account of priests complicit in the killing.