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Pope asks for forgiveness for church's role in Rwanda genocide

The Catholic Church in Rwanda last year publicly sought forgiveness for the part played by some of its members.

Skulls of victims of the Ntarama massacre during the 1994 genocide are lined in the Genocide Memorial Site church of Ntarama, in Nyamata 27 February 2004. Picture: AFP.

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis asked on Monday for forgiveness for the "sins and failings of the Church and its members" during Rwanda's 1994 genocide, saying the violence had "disfigured the face" of the Roman Catholic Church.

In a meeting with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Francis said he hoped his apology would help promote peace in the African country, which was torn apart by genocide in 1994, and contribute to a "purification of memory".

The Catholic Church in Rwanda last year publicly sought forgiveness for the part played by some of its members, who it said had fanned the ethnic hatred that led to the killings.

Some massacres took place in churches where people who had sought refuge were killed by militias.

The Vatican said in a statement that the pope had "implored anew God’s forgiveness for the sins and failings of the Church and its members, among whom priests, and religious men and women who succumbed to hatred and violence, betraying their own evangelical mission".

Some 800,000 people from the ethnic Tutsi minority as well as moderates from the Hutu majority were massacred in the 1994 genocide. Kagame, a Tutsi, led a rebel force to halt the slaughter.

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