The New Times (Kigali)

15 February 2013

Rwanda: Goodbye Pope Benedict Xvi, I Won?t Miss You Though

opinion

CALL ME heartless. Honestly, you can call me whatever you like. But I will say this all day long, "Goodbye to you Mr. Pope and I hope that you spend the rest of your days living with the kind of disappointment and guilty conscience that your inaction deserves".

When I was younger, I was a good Catholic lad. The Catholic school I attended in primary engrained in us a love for the cloth and a respect and reverence for the entire hierarchy, from the lovely priest to the pope in Rome. In fact, the two highlights of primary seven were the class trip to the Uganda Martyrs shrine in Namugongo, Kampala and the visit by the former archbishop of Kampala, Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala to our chapel for confirmation mass. St. Savio Junior School Kisubi put me along the path to a lifelong devotion to Mary and the other multitudes that had earned sainthoods. That was far back in 1994. That was before I saw the horrors that had been unleashed in the nation that I learnt to call mine.

I learnt that the magnificent Saint Famille was home to convicted war criminal Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka (the rapist and murderer is still escaping the long arm of the law in France where he is happily leading mass, obviously protected by Rome). I learnt about the over ten thousand of innocent men, women and children who sought refuge in the Nyamata Parish Church but instead found death. I found out that the chairperson of MRND's central committee for fourteen years was Archbishop of Kigali, Vincent Nsengiyumva (that is, until the Vatican 'intervened').

I discovered people like Fathers Jean Francois Kayiranga, Edouard Nkurikiye, Emmanuel Rukundo and Laurent Ntimugura. I read about Sister Julienne Maria Kizito and her Mother Superior, Gertrude Mukangango.

Now, I know that there were many catholic faithfuls who did not go over to the dark side. There are priests who saved lives. There are nuns who did the same. And I commend them for living up to their calling. However, I could never forgive those in the positions of power who refused to apologise for their omissions during those one hundred days when more than a million people died. The families of those that were betrayed by the Church have NEVER received an apology for their underlings' actions and omissions.

I thought that it was perhaps because the Church apologised to NOBODY. I learnt that that was not true. What I learnt was that apologies were for some and not others.

When Pope John Paul II passed away, I thought that the Church would perhaps turn a new page and acknowledge some of its historical wrongs. It had already apologised for the Spanish Inquisition in 2000 and I assumed that Rwandans would get that courtesy. Then the Church apologised to all the children who had suffered sexual abuse at the hands of the priests (and then gave them huge financial settlements). And still Rwandans wait.

I've come to the conclusion that the Church apologised for these crimes simply because they took place in the West. I know that that might seem a tad bit unreasonable but I must ask; if the sexual abuse scandals had occurred in Kibuye instead of Chicago or Goma instead of New Jersey, would an apology have been so forthcoming? If I said that the apologies (and compensation) happened because the victims and their kin enjoyed the full force of white outrage, would you call me unfair?

The same Church that stood impotently aside and watched people die is the same Church that is STILL protecting murderers and rapists. Pope Benedict XVI has been in my humble opinion, a man more interested about consenting adults sexual affairs than healing the wounds of a people betrayed. I won't miss him and I can only hope that the next one is better. I won't hold my breath.

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