Rwandan Bishops Criticize Parliament’s Report on Genocide

Stress Criminal Factor and Ask that Generalizations be Avoided

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KIGALI, Rwanda, AUG. 31, 2004 ( A Rwandan parliamentary commission accused the Catholic Church of covering up the responsibility of priests in the 1994 genocide, an accusation that the country’s bishops consider «an unjustified generalization.»

The parliamentary report also accuses the Church of spreading the genocide, of hiding the guilty in ecclesial communities, and of fostering poverty.

The bishops have responded by stating that the Church, as an institution, cannot admit to a crime it has not committed, and have countered the accusations point by point.

The writing of the parliamentary commission’s report on the Ginkoro massacres began on January 20, with the intention of investigating the massacres that occurred in that Rwandan province.

The African country’s genocide broke out on April 7, 1994, with fierce confrontations between Hutus and Tutsis.

In just three months, 800,000 people were killed and three million fled the country, while corpses floated down the rivers and on Lake Victoria, according to United Nations sources.

The bishops’ note of response begins by praising the positive aspects of the report. In the second part, they refute the accusations made against the Catholic Church.

«We thank the government of Rwanda for its determination to be watchful, so that Rwandans can live in security and peace,» the bishops write.

However, the prelates fault the report for «unjustified generalizations,» when «the personal ideas of some persons are attributed to his ethnic group, region, religious confession, or the association to which he adheres.»

The bishops are «in perfect agreement with the commission» when it states that «those responsible and the faithful who are guilty of the ideology of the genocide, no matter what their confession, will never be able to escape from justice.»

Nevertheless, the report has «deplorable and painful errors, as onerous and grave affirmations are made that are not based on the truth of the events and go against persons who might suffer unhappy consequences,» the episcopal document notes.

By way of example, the bishops mention «the confusion of persons and names, and the erroneous attribution to the Catholic Church of associations that in no way belong to it,» they explain.

«The Catholic Church affirms that genocide is such a serious sin that protection cannot be given to someone who is guilty of it,» the bishops continue.

«Therefore, to say that the Church is covering up for priests and others who are responsible is something that goes against the truth. It is the state’s responsibility to hunt down all those people, wherever they are,» they add.

«For its part, the Church has requested all its members who have committed this crime to have the courage to admit their sins.»

«The Church is right in not admitting a crime it never committed,» the bishops emphasize, adding that «its mission is well known by all: to reconcile men with God and to exhort them to fraternity.»

«There is a surprising anomaly in the report: verdicts are questioned which have already been given by the judiciary of our country.»

«This is in obvious contradiction with the judicial power’s principle of independence, as generally a verdict is appealed when new evidence is available and proceedings begin again in the courts,» they emphasize.

The accusations made in the report against the ecclesial communities also surprised the Rwandan episcopal conference.

«If some person has hidden in our ecclesial communities for his own ends, this cannot be imputed to them,» the document stresses.

The bishops commit themselves to pay careful attention so that communities will not be used in a counter-productive manner.

«We say the same about our ecclesial institutions and the associations of our Christian faithful,» they continue.

Moreover, «to dare to say, in contradiction to the truth, that in the majority of dioceses the priests belong to one ethnic group, the Hutu, means to use language that carries discriminatory ideas.»

«There are rules for admission to orders and the religious life. We do not know of one diocese that has rejected a candidate to the priesthood who possessed all the requisites. Likewise, no diocese will ever oblige a candidate to be a priest, a religious or a nun just because of the fact that he or she belongs to one or another ethnic group,» they explain.

Another accusation in the report which the bishops disputed is that «the Church is the promoter of an ideology of poverty and works to keep the population poor.»

«Whoever says this ignores completely the role the Catholic Church has played and continues to play to improve the population’s conditions of life,» they respond.

«The Catholic Church will never abandon the poor because this is fundamental and constitutive of its mission.»

These errors of the report are attributed to the fact that «it has been written in haste, in a precipitous manner and with no desire to verify the testimonies gathered,» the Rwandan prelates say.

The Bishops end their document with an appeal to the people to walk in «the truth that reconciles all Rwandans.»

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