By Charles Kambanda
Today 20th March 2017 the Holy Father, Pope Francis, prayed for forgiveness for the sins and failings of the church and its members in the 1994 massacres, which he referred to as genocide.
Some news outlests have interpreted this Theologically loaded statement to mean that the Pope has accepted criminal responsibility for the 1994 Rwandan massacres. This is a wrong interpretation of the Vicar of Christ’s statement. Proponents of this erroneous reasoning probably lack understanding of the meaning of the Church. What’s Church? Refer to Vatican 11 Documents under Lumen Gentium.
The Pope used clear terms ” forgiveness, … sin, failing …” These terms have nothing to do with crime ( massacres or genocide), criminal responsibility and/or criminal liability.
The Holy Church cannot bear criminal responsibility, on behalf of its remember, except where any criminal liability theory applies. What happened during the 1994 massacres in Rwanda triggers no criminal liability theory for the Catholic Church. Each person that massacres people is criminally liable for his/her crimes.
What the Vicar of Christ said is the ordinary faith of the Holy Catholic Church that the Church – the living Body of Jesus Christ on earth – in its human nature constantly needs God’s Grace. Whenever the Christians celebrate the Holy Eucharist, they pray or ask for forgiveness for the sins and failing of the Holy Body of Christ on earth to grow into Holiness by God’s Grace. These Principles are enshrined in Vatican 11 Documents under Lumen Gentium.
As a body Pilgrims ( all humanity), the Holy Church is beyond its declared members. Some people do not know that they, too, belong to the Holy Church yet they are members of the Holy Church. This principle is found under Nostra Aetate.
Therefore, when the Vicar of Christ prays for forgiveness for the sins and failing of the Church and it’s member, the Holy Father is praying for the entire humanity i.e the Church as explained in Lumen Gentium and the Church as it relates to the entire universe; Nostra Aetate.
The Pope’s prayer for forgiveness is by the entire humanity, including Kagame, to God the Father to give us the Grace we need to be better people.
The Pope’s statement is not admission that the Church committed genocide. And indeed, there is no known theory in criminal law or Torts, by which the Catholic Church can be responsible for any of its member’s crimes during the 1994 massacres in Rwanda.