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Pope tells Rwandan bishops he prays for genocide victims


Pope Francis told a group of Rwandan Bishops Thursday that he still prays for the victims of the genocide in their country, as Kigali prepares to mark the 20th anniversary of the killings.

"I join with all my heart in mourning," the head of the Catholic Church told a meeting of nine Rwandan Bishops.

"I assure you of my prayers for yourselves, for your often-torn communities, for all victims and their families, for all Rwandans," regardless of religion, ethnicity or political affiliation, he said.

Speaking about the 1994 genocide, in which 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, were killed in some 100 days of bloodshed, he said the events had opened "many wounds which are still not healed".

But he said that while reconciliation and healing may "seem impossible" after so much suffering, it should remain "the priority of the church... even if the road is long and requires patience, dialogue and mutual respect."

The Church, he added, has a key role to play in a "reconciled Rwandan society".

"Go ahead," he told the bishops, urging them to be "constantly bearing witness to the truth".

Commemorations to remember the victims of the genocide started in Rwanda on Tuesday, and a period of official mourning begins on April 7.