DAILY CATHOLIC THURSDAY April 22, 1999 vol. 10, no. 79
NEWS & VIEWS
PAPAL REMINDER ON "FORGOTTEN WARS" IN AFRICA AS RWANDAN GOVERNMENT OPPOSING CHURCH, FIDES CHARGES EVIDENCE BY RWANDA COURT DENYING BAIL FOR JAILED CATHOLIC BISHOP
VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- During his weekly public audience on Wednesday, April 21, Pope John Paul II reminded the faithful that warfare is tearing apart several African countries, as well as the Balkan region.
The Holy Father said he wished to remind listeners of the many "forgotten wars" in Africa, such as the conflicts in Congo, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, the Great Lakes region, and Sudan. This "long and sad series of internal conflicts" have caused immense suffering, he said, "especially for the innocent civilians." He voiced his prayer that God would lift the burdens causes by hatred and violence, and open paths to "sincere and patient dialogue, which could produce solutions that would be beneficial to everyone."
The Pope also called to mind the hostages still being held by a rebel group in Colombia, and issued a "vehement appeal" to the kidnappers for their release.
In Kigali, Rwanda a Rwandan court on Tuesday refused to set bail for Catholic Bishop Augustin Misago of Gikongoro who was arrested last week while the government investigates possible involvement in the 1994 genocide of more than 500,000 people.
Catholics in Rwanda, neighboring African nations, and at the Vatican have condemned the arrest as misguided. The Tanzanian bishops' conference said in a statement that the arrest of Bishop Misago "carries all indications that the Government of Rwanda is trying everything possible to avoid taking its responsibility," by casting blame on the Catholic Church.
At an April 7 memorial service, President Pasteur Bizimungu threatened to take action against the bishop unless the Church admitted culpability in the genocide.
The 56-year-old bishop was arrested on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for refusing shelter for ethnic Tutsis from Hutu death squads. He was ordered held in prison for two months until an investigation is complete. The court also refused a temporary release on health grounds.
So far, 19 Rwandan priests are among the 125,000 people in Rwanda's jails on suspicion of aiding the killings. More than 1,000 suspects have so far been tried.
The Fides news agency has released a full report on the arrest of Bishop Augustin Misago in Rwanda, saying that the arrest can be seen as "the latest step in the Rwandan government's strategy for reducing the influence of the Church in society, and halting the process of reconciliation."
Bishop Misago was arrested on April 14, shortly after being accused by government authorities of involvement in the country's 1994 ethnic massacres. Pope John Paul II has voiced his "sorrow" and "regret" over the arrest, while the bishops of Burundi and Tanzania have issued forthright condemnations of the act. The bishops is now being held without bail.
According to the Fides report, the Catholic Church has frequently
been the target of criticism from media sources viewed as friendly
toward the Rwandan government. One journalist, for example, has
said that the Rwandan bishops are "too close to Rome," and called for
"the creation of a Rwandan national church."
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NEWS & VIEWS