Pope begs forgiveness for church role in Rwanda genocide

Pope Francis, welcomes Rwanda's President Paul Kagame during a private audience at the Vatican, Monday, March 20, 2017. (Tony Gentile/

Pope Francis, right, and Rwanda's President Paul Kagame exchange gifts during a private audience at the Vatican, Monday March 20, 2017

Pope Francis, is flanked by Rwanda's President Paul Kagame, left, and his wife Jeannette Kagame, right, at the end of a private audien

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has begged forgiveness for the "sins and failings of the church and its members" during Rwanda's 1994 genocide and told Rwanda's president that he hoped his apology would help the country heal.

In an extraordinary statement after Francis' meeting Monday with President Paul Kagame, the Vatican acknowledged that some Catholic priests and nuns "succumbed to hatred and violence, betraying their own evangelical mission."

The Vatican said Francis also "expressed the desire that this humble recognition of the failings of that period, which unfortunately disfigured the face of the church, may contribute to a 'purification of memory' and may promote, in hope and renewed trust, a future of peace."

The Vatican's statement followed an official apology issued last year by Rwanda's Catholic bishops.