From ........... Associated Press

December 12, 1996

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Any Roman Catholics involved in the slaughter of half a million people in Rwanda two years ago should face up to their misdeeds, Pope John Paul II said Thursday.

As John Paul received the credentials of the new Rwandan ambassador to the Holy See, Manzi Bakuramutsa, he quoted from his March letter to church leaders, civil authorities and Catholics in Rwanda.

The pope said then that the church itself cannot "be held responsible for the misdeeds of its members who have acted against evangelical law."

But he repeated that "all those members of the church who have sinned during the genocide must have the courage to bear the consequences."

From April to July 1994, at least 500,000 people, mostly minority Tutsis, were slaughtered in a genocide organized and executed by militants in Rwanda's former Hutu government.

African Rights, a London-based group, contends that some priests actively encouraged the killers and that [Roman] Catholic leaders did nothing to stop the slaughter. Rwanda's population is 60 percent [Roman] Catholic.

John Paul has made numerous appeals for negotiation and dialogue to help end the rivalries that have bloodied Rwanda as well as neighboring Zaire and Burundi.

At the outbreak of bloodshed in 1994, Rwanda was 80 percent Hutu. About half the clergy were Tutsi, mostly because the Church was one of the few institutions left open to them.