President Paul Kagame today held talks with the Holy Father, Pope Francis, at the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City.
Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, who accompanied President Kagame to the Vatican, said:"President Kagame and the Holy Father discussed several aspects of the relationship between Rwanda and the Holy See. The President commended the Church’s contributions to Rwanda’s socio-economic development, particularly in the education and health sectors."
Also discussed was the Church’s role in the most tragic chapters of Rwanda’s past, leading up to the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994. Well before 1994, Catholic institutions and missions, together with the colonial administration, played a decisive role in dividing Rwandans and laying the intellectual foundation for genocide ideology. Today, genocide denial and trivialisation continue to flourish in certain groups within the Church and genocide suspects have been shielded from justice within Catholic institutions.
According to Minister Mushikiwabo:"Today’s meeting was characterised by a spirit of openness and mutual respect. It is a positive step forward in the relationship between Rwanda and the Holy See, based on a frank and shared understanding of Rwanda’s history and the imperative to combat genocide ideology. It allows us to build a stronger base for restoring harmony between Rwandans and the Catholic Church."
Rwanda’s progress in reconciliation and economic development was noted, including the fact that survivors and repentant perpetrators have learned to live and work side-by-side, and that shared Catholic faith has facilitated these efforts and provided comfort.
Kagame has responded to Vatican invitation where he arrived yesterday after a two-day state visit in China.
His visit to Vatican follows the appointment of new Pope’s envoy to Rwanda, BishopAndrzej Jozwowicz who is expected to strengthen existing bilateral ties with Vatican.