Today, I continue my 100 day series remembering the twentieth anniversary of Rwandan genocide. Please join me in prayer for those lives lost and impacted in this tragedy. #NeverAgain. LMH
Since going to Rwanda with CRS last year, I’ve often pondered what might have been done differently to avoid the bloodshed of the genocide. Certainly, the role of the Church is entangled with the genocide. While I don’t know all of the facts of how the Church acted in that time, articles such as this one point to the hurt still felt by so many Rwandans. During our visit to Rwanda, we visited a beautiful church which was also the site of killing — grief tore at my heart while I was in that place.
So I was happy to see that this past week, Pope Francis remembered to pray with and for the people of Rwanda. On two occasions, leading up to Monday’s start of the 100 days of remembrance, our Holy Father raised the issue:
Ad Limina Visits with Rwandan Bishops (Thursday, April 3rd)
Pope Francis received the bishops of Rwanda on Thursday, during the course of their ad limina visits. In remarks prepared for the occasion and delivered to the bishops during the audience in the Vatican, the Holy Father recalled the genocide in the country, the 20th anniversary of the beginning of which is to be marked in a few days’ time. “I join with all my heart in mourning,” said Pope Francis, “and I assure you of my prayers for yourselves, for your often torn communities, for all victims and their families, for all Rwandans,” regardless of religion, ethnicity or political affiliation.
The Holy Father went on to say that, two decades after these tragic events, reconciliation and the healing of wounds remain the priority of the Church in Rwanda. He encouraged the bishops to persevere in their commitment to healing and reconciliation. “Forgiveness of sins and genuine reconciliation,” he said, a are a gift of Christ that it is possible to receive,” even though they might seem to human sight to be impossible in the wake of such suffering as the people of Rwanda have experienced, “even if the road is long and requires patience, dialogue and mutual respect.” Pope Francis said, “The Church has its place, therefore, in the reconstruction of a reconciled Rwandan society: with all the strength of your faith and Christian hope.” He added, “go ahead vigorously, constantly bearing witness to the truth.”
Sunday Angelus (Sunday, April 6th)
Dear brothers and sisters,
Tomorrow in Rwanda the commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the beginning of the genocide against the Tutsi people will take place. On this occasion I want to express my paternal closeness to the Rwandan people, encouraging them to continue, with determination and hope, the process of reconciliation that has already manifested its fruits, and the commitment to the human and spiritual reconstruction of the country. To all of you I say: Do not be afraid! Construct your society on the rock of the Gospel, on love and concord, because only in this way can an enduring peace be produced. I invoke upon the dear Rwandan nation the maternal protection of Our Lady of Kibeho. I remember with affection the Rwandan bishops who were here in the Vatican this past week. And I invite all of you here, now, to pray to the Madonna, Our Lady of Kibeho. [The Pope lead the crowd in a Hail Mary.]
Having visited and worshipped with Catholics in Rwanda, having met holy priests and bishops, I have great hope for the continued role of the Church in the healing process. But the work of true reconciliation is a continuing journey. I pray that the Church will be on the forefront of leading all people — including the Rwandans — to peace and healing.