The Bishops of Rwanda have asked forgiveness for Catholics’ role in the 1994 genocide in which more than 800,000 people – mostly ethnic Tutsis – were killed.

The bishops published a pastoral letter to coincide with the end of the Year of Mercy. All the bishops in the country signed the three-page document, which they asked to be read out in churches.

But their statement was strongly criticised by Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, who said the Vatican should apologise for the killings.

In 14 points, the bishops asked forgiveness for the role that some members of the Church played during the genocide, especially for pastors who “sowed seeds of hate”, said the French newspaper La Croix.

Priests and Religious, criticised for being close to the Hutu regime at the time, are still facing justice for what they did before and during the genocide.

Catholic authorities have always denied ordering killings. Bishop Philippe Rukamba of Butare, president of the bishops’ conference, told Radio France Internationale that forgiveness was mostly asked for all Christians involved in the genocide, not so much for the Church as an institution.

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