Vatican says The Holy See is ready to engage in a dialogue with Rwanda, to look at highs and lows in diplomatic ties for a firm future.
Pope Representative to Rwanda, apostolic Nuncio Luciano Russo says “good relationship between Holy See and Rwanda will be strengthened through sincere dialogue.”
Bishop Smaragde Mbonyintege, president of episcopal council of Rwanda told KTPress that the major things to be discussed should be Rwanda’s attitude towards the church during colonial era.
Catholic Missionaries in the 18th and 19th centuries are accused of collaborating with colonial masters to sow the seeds of devisionism.
Colonizers divided Rwandans in factions creating social tension and conflict that lasted for decades, culminating into a genocide in 1994.
Mbonyintege said, “the position of the church in the Genocide itself will be set clear.” He said those who were implicated did not act in church’s mission.
Dozens of clergymen and other Catholic Church members were sentenced for orchestrating and participating in mass killings from churches.
Over 2 million followers allegedly played role in the genocide, led by clerics. More than 80% of Rwandans are believed to be followers of the religion.
In a gala dinner marking golden jubilee of bilateral ties between both nations yesterday, Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs minister said, “Holy See relationship with Rwanda is good, but it temporarily soured in 1994.”
“My country stands for that message of dialogue so we can move together,” she said. “Let’s take stock of the past to make the future bright.”
According to Luciano, the Catholic Church never abandoned Rwanda. “It always condemned genocide and supported unity and reconciliation.”
The Vatican envoy noted that bilateral relations between the two nations are not business oriented.
Luciano said Pope Francis is committed to promoting social justice, peace and humanity welfare. He said the Pope is grateful Rwanda has restored peace and social cohesion.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Church plays a big role in Rwanda’s religious and social fabric. Over the last two decades, the church said it invested $145m in social activities.
The church runs 1600 primary and secondary schools countrywide with 1.8 million children, plus 13,000 students from three universities.
Last year, the church spent $10.1m in education.
Olivier Rwamukwaya, the Minister of State for Education estimates the church’s contribution into education in Rwanda to be about 60%.
In the health sector, the church contributes 30% with 105 health centers and nine hospitals.
The current Pope has not visited Rwanda, but the late Pope John Paul II visited Rwanda in 1990.