The Comboni Missionary Order's news agency MISNA believes Rwandan Bishop Misago arrested recently "is a clear victim of a judicial system intent on discrediting the image of the Catholic Church."
    The arrest has caused profound indignation among the Catholic communities of Rwanda. MISNA points out that the bishop "is a caring pastor who since 1992 has distinguished himself in the episcopal service of his diocese," in the southeast of the country.
    On 7 April, Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu, the president of Rwanda, announced at a ceremony commemorating the fifth anniversary of the killings, during which the remains of 20,000 victims were buried, that the State was prepared to move against the bishop if the ecclesiastical authorities failed to do so. The president also threatened the local Church.
    On April 9, Bishop Misago published a letter to express his indignation over the "utterly unfounded" accusations instigated by the president. At present, the bishop is in a military jail awaiting trial, for which a date has not been fixed. The missionary agency states that there are 125,000 people in Rwanda jails awaiting trial. To date only 350 judgements have been passed, a fact which reflects the criteria of justice of the current regime.
    Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said publicly that the Holy See has received the news" of the bishop's arrest "with sorrow and distress." He said: "The arrest of a bishop is an extremely serious act which offends not only the Church in Rwanda but the whole Catholic Church. The relations between the Republic of Rwanda and the Holy See are also profoundly strained."
    For months the government and the media have been fostering a harsh campaign against the Catholic Church and the Pope. Last May, the national radio and the government press criticized the role of the Church in the history of Rwanda. Privat Rutazibwa, a former priest and one of the principal organisers of the campaign as director of a government press agency, maintains that "the Catholic Church is too dependent on Rome" and that it is necessary to "create a national Church of Rwanda."

9:38am 15/4/99 / Zenit


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