Congregation Defends Priest Charged in Rwanda Genocide

Head of White Fathers Calls Accusations «Incomprehensible»

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ROME, SEPT. 18, 2005 ( The superior general of the Missionaries of Africa says that accusations against a priest of the congregation in relation to the Rwanda genocide are «completely incomprehensible.»

Father Guy Theunis, 60, a member of the congregation commonly known as the «White Fathers,» was charged Sept. 11 with inciting people to participate in the 1994 genocide.

The priest, who pleaded innocent, was a missionary in the central African country from 1970 until 1994.

Father Theunis, who worked as the editor of Rwanda’s periodical Le Dialogue, denied allegations that he incited the genocide by reprinting articles from the Kangura, a newspaper that promoted the killing of members of the Tutsi ethnic minority, according to a press report.

Last Thursday, the Missionaries of Africa issued a communiqué from Father Gérard Chabanon, superior general, on the arrest of Father Theunis.

«It is with much surprise and sadness that we learned of the arrest of our brother, Father Guy Theunis,» the statement said. «The accusation of the Rwandan prosecutor, Emmanuel Rukangira, associating Father Theunis, even if indirectly through the periodical Dialogue to the terrible genocide of 1994, appears to us to be totally unfounded.»

Never alone

The statement continued: «Father Theunis was the director of this periodical in Rwanda from 1989 to 1992 and in Belgium from 1994 to 1995. … The director was never alone in deciding whether or not to publish a text. It is therefore unthinkable that ‘articles of extremist publications’ could have been published by Dialogue.

«Perhaps it could have happened that references to these publications have been made to convey awareness about the dangers of such opinions, or to criticize them in such a way that there could not be any doubt as to the nature of the text published.»

Father Chabanon added: «Knowing Guy personally and his lifelong commitment for the freedom of the press and for justice in the spirit of the Gospel, we find the accusations brought against him completely incomprehensible.

«We are distressed by the seriousness of the accusations against him when all the evidence we have points towards someone who spoke out and denounced the widespread human rights abuses which led to the genocide. Those who worked with him during those tragic years in Rwanda are also of the same opinion.»

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