Vatican says Rwanda genocide nuns 'singled out' for conviction
The Vatican has criticised the convictions of two Rwandan nuns for their role in the nation's 1994 genocide, suggesting the sisters were singled out among many responsible for the slaughter.
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls also said the Church could not be held responsible for the misdeeds of its members.
The nuns were convicted of homicide Friday in Belgium, along with two others - for helping Hutus massacre thousands of Tutsis who had taken refuge at their convent in April 1994.
"The Holy See cannot but express a certain surprise at seeing the grave responsibility of so many . . . involved in this tremendous genocide in the heart of Africa heaped on so few people," Navarro-Walls said. "[But] all the members of the Church who have sinned during the genocide must have the courage to bear the consequences of the deeds they have committed against God and against their future."
It was the Vatican's first response to allegations that some priests and nuns encouraged or even took part in the genocide, and that the church did nothing to stop them.
The jury in Brussels handed a sentence of 15 years in prison to Sr Gertrude, mother superior at the Sovu convent, for her role in the April 1994 massacres of up to 7000 people seeking shelter at the convent. And Sister Maria Kisito was sentenced to 12 years in prison for helping a mob burn the convent's garage - packed with an estimated 500 terrified people.
Witnesses said Sr Gertrude refused to give refugees sanctuary. Other testimony said the two nuns colluded with the killers, showing them where refugees were hiding.
The defence argued the nuns were innocent bystanders.
The nuns, along with two other people convicted, had fled to Belgium after the Tutsi rebels took control of the country in July 1994 and put an end to the genocide. The trial was held under a law giving local courts in Belgium jurisdiction over criminals wherever they may hide.
New York Post