Pope asks forgiveness for 'failings of Church' during Rwandan genocide

The pontiff said some priests were among those who "succumbed to hatred and violence" in 1994

Pope asks forgiveness for 'failings of Church' during Rwandan genocide

Pope Francis meets with President of Rwanda Paul Kagame and wife Jeannette at the Vatican. Picture by: ABACA/ABACA/PA Images

Pope Francis has asked the President of Rwanda to forgive the 'failings of the Church' during the Rwandan genocide.

An estimated 800,000 people were killed in the African country in 1994 when Hutu extremists targeted members of the Tutsi population and other government opponents.

The Guardian reports that while around 200 priests and nuns were among those killed in 1994, other members of the Church "were complicit in, or even took part, in the violence".

In 2006, Athanase Seromba - a former priest of Nyange Parish - was found guilty of genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity at the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

The UN said he had "encouraged and directed" the demolition of a church where about 2,000 Tutsis had tried to take shelter during the genocide, leading to the deaths all inside. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The Catholic Church in Rwanda last year apologised for its members' role in the genocide, and asked forgiveness for the "crime of hate in the country to the extent of also hating our colleagues because of their ethnicity".

Earlier today, the pontiff met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame at the Vatican.

In a statement released following the meeting, a Vatican spokesperson said the Pope "conveyed his profound sadness, and that of the Holy See and of the Church, for the genocide against the Tutsi."

The statement added: "He expressed his solidarity with the victims and with those who continue to suffer the consequences of those tragic events and [...] he 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."