The Bishops of Rwanda have asked forgiveness for Catholics’ role in the 1994 genocide in which more than 800,000 people – mostly ethnic Tutsis – were killed.
The bishops published a pastoral letter to coincide with the end of the Year of Mercy. All the bishops in the country signed the three-page document, which they asked to be read out in churches.
But their statement was strongly criticised by Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, who said the Vatican should apologise for the killings.
In 14 points, the bishops asked forgiveness for the role that some members of the Church played during the genocide, especially for pastors who “sowed seeds of hate”, said the French newspaper La Croix.
Priests and Religious, criticised for being close to the Hutu regime at the time, are still facing justice for what they did before and during the genocide.
Catholic authorities have always denied ordering killings. Bishop Philippe Rukamba of Butare, president of the bishops’ conference, told Radio France Internationale that forgiveness was mostly asked for all Christians involved in the genocide, not so much for the Church as an institution.
President Kagame, who has, in effect, ruled Rwanda since the genocide, said the apology was “profoundly inadequate” . He said the bishops had taken the “extraordinary step of exonerating the Catholic Church as a whole for any culpability”. He also complained that the letter had not been read out in all parishes.
In 1994, Mr Kagame was the commander of a rebel force which ended the genocide.
Pope Francis will visit Ireland in 2018, the Irish prime minister has confirmed.
Enda Kenny, who met the Pope at the Vatican on Monday, said that trip organisers would look at the possibility of a stop in Northern Ireland.
A Vatican statement said the two spoke about the Church’s contributions to Ireland, particularly “in the social and educational fields”, and about how important it was for Christians to take an active role in public life, “especially in the promotion of respect for the dignity of every person, starting with the weakest and defenceless”.
Migration, high levels of unemployment among youths and the political and institutional challenges faced by Europe were also on the agenda, the Vatican said.
After the meeting, Mr Kenny told reporters that Pope Francis confirmed his intention to attend the next World Meeting of Families, which is scheduled for Dublin in 2018.
According to the Irish Independent, Mr Kenny said he spoke to the Pope about “a number of issues that would, in my view, help greatly his visit when it comes in 2018”, including the need to condemn clerical sexual abuse as he did during his visit to America in 2015.
According to the newspaper, the prime minister added that he “would like to see the Pope travel to Northern Ireland, to complete a journey that Pope John Paul II couldn’t do in 1979.
“I said to him that very point: that John Paul couldn’t go because of the Troubles at the time.”
After the meeting Mr Kenny tweeted a picture of him and the Pope laughing together and wrote: “Pope Francis has been an important voice for the young, the poor and disadvantaged – glad he will visit Ireland in 2018.”
Pope Francis has sent a telegram to Cuba expressing his condolences following the “sad news” of Fidel Castro’s death.
The message was addressed to Raúl Castro, Fidel’s brother, who rules the island. The Pope also expressed his condolences to the government and to Cuba’s people. He said: “I offer prayers to the Lord for his rest and I trust the whole Cuban people to the maternal intercession of Our Lady of the Charity of El Cobre, patroness of this country.”
Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami said: “Now he awaits the judgment of God who is merciful but also just. His death provokes many emotions – both in and outside the island.
Nevertheless, beyond all possible emotions, the passing of this figure should lead us to invoke the patroness of Cuba, the Virgin of Charity, asking for peace for Cuba and its people.”
Castro was 90 and ruled Cuba from 1959 – when his regime overthrew the government of Fulgencio Batista – until 2008 when he handed over power to his brother.
Archbishop Wenski said: “Our Lady of Charity, hear her people’s prayers and hasten for Cuba the hour of its reconciliation in truth, accompanied by freedom and justice.”
Through the intercession of Mary, may “the Cuban people know how to traverse that narrow road between fear which gives in to evil, and violence, which under the illusion of fighting evil only makes it worse,” he added.
Martin Scorsese’s new film Silence was due to have its world premiere at the Vatican this week in front of an audience of 400 Jesuits.
The historical drama set in the 17th century follows the story of two Jesuit priests (played by Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield) searching for their missing mentor (Liam Neeson) in Japan. The action takes place at a time when Christianity was outlawed there.
The film is based on a novel of the same name by the Japanese author Shusaku Endo.
Although a work of fiction, the character of Fr Ferreira, portrayed by Liam Neeson, is based on the Italian priest Giuseppe Chiara who served as a missionary in Japan at the time.
Mr Scorsese has been keen to adapt the book for cinema since 1990. In an interview with Deadline earlier this year, he said: “The very nature of secularism right now is really fascinating to me, but at the same time do you wipe away what could be more enriching in your life, which is an appreciation or some sort of search for that which is spiritual and transcends?
“Silence is just something that I’m drawn to in that way. It’s been an obsession, it has to be done … it’s a strong, wonderful true story, a thriller in a way, but it deals with those questions.”
The film is scheduled for release on December 23 in the the United States and on January 1 in Britain.
The Vatican screening was organised by Fr James Martin SJ, who advised on the film.
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