Pope Francis met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame Monday and begged for forgiveness for the "sins and failings of the church and its members" during Rwanda's 1994 genocide.
After the meeting, the Vatican released a statement acknowledging that the church, as well as some Catholic priests and nuns "succumbed to hatred and violence, betraying their own evangelical mission" by participating in the 100-day genocide that killed more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
According to the accounts of some survivors, many victims of the Rwandan genocide died at the hands of priests, clergymen and nuns in the churches where they sought refuge.
Rwanda's government has been pressuring the Vatican to apologize for its involvement in the genocide, but in the past, the church has argued that those who committed crimes acted individually.
"The church in itself cannot be held responsible for the misdeeds of its members who have acted against evangelical law," St. John Paul II said in a 1996 letter to Rwandan bishops.
Last year Rwanda's Catholic bishops issued a more generalized apology in which the Rwandan government officials deemed inadequate. In December Kagame said he didn't understand why the church wouldn't apologize specifically for the genocide, seeing as it has apologized for lesser crimes in the past.
"I don't understand why the pope would apologize for sexual offenses, whether it is in the U.S., Ireland or Australia, but cannot apologize for the role of the church in the genocide that happened here," Kagame said.
Monday, however, Kagame tweeted calling his meeting with Francis a "new chapter in relations" between Rwanda and the Catholic church.
Great day/moment and meeting with Pope Francis, new chapter in relations btwn Rwanda & Catholic Church/Holy See!— Paul Kagame (@PaulKagame) March 20, 2017
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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