Catholic Church in Rwanda says it regrets actions of "all Christians for all forms of wrongs" during the 1994 genocide against Tutsi.
A church statement acknowledged on Sunday its members planned, aided, and executed the genocide, in which more than 1 million innocent Tutsi were killed.
"We apologise for all the wrongs the church committed. We apologise on behalf of all Christians for all forms of wrongs we committed. We regret that church members violated [their] oath of allegiance to God’s commandments," said the statement by the Conference of Catholic Bishops, which was read out in parishes across the country.
Many of the victims died at the hands of priests, clergymen and nuns, according to accounts by survivors, and the Rwandan government said many died in the churches where they had sought refuge.
The bishops’ statement is seen as a positive development in Rwanda’s efforts at reconciliation.
"Forgive us for the crime of hate in the country to the extent of also hating our colleagues because of their ethnicity. We didn’t show that we are one family, but instead killed each other," the statement said.
Bishop Phillipe Rukamba, spokesman for the Catholic Church in Rwanda, said the statement was timed to coincide with the formal end on Sunday of the Holy Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis to encourage greater reconciliation and forgiveness in his church and in the world.
Tom Ndahiro, a Rwandan genocide researcher, said he hoped the church’s statement will encourage unity among Rwandans.
"I am also happy to learn that in their statement, bishops apologise for not having been able to avert the genocide," he said.