The Episcopal Conference of Rwanda has come out strongly to denounce reports that Pope Francis has endorsed same sex marriages.
In a statement issued late Saturday evening, the Rwanda Catholic Church’s highest body says the Church’s doctrinal messages have an established mechanism in which they are issued, and not via the media whatsoever.
This past week, the global media erupted in frenzy after comments emerged purported to be of the Pope speaking positively about same sex marriages. They were hailed as historic, and indicative of the Church’s struggling alignment with a changing world.
In comments to feature in an upcoming documentary about him, “Francesco”, Pope Francis says in English translation: “Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it.”
Monseigneur Filipo Rukamba, the archbishop of Butare Diocese in southern Rwanda, and chair of the Episcopal Conference says the doctrine of the Church still remains that same sex marriages are “sin”.
The statement tackles the issue with expected strong language highlighted in five points, seemingly to affirm the Church’s conservation view of LGBT+ issues.
Firstly, the Episcopal Conference says any changes in the doctrine and teachings are communicated through an established mechanism, and can never be done through media interview.
Secondly, say the senior Rwandan Bishops, the reported comments attributed to the Pope are “rumours” being spread by people who either didn’t understand what the Pope actually said, or the translation was poorly done, or being deliberately spread to mislead Catholics.
The Episcopal Conference slams this latter group as advancing an agenda targeted to disorganize the Church.
The Rwanda Catholic Church accuses the media of linking Pope Francis’ latest comments on same sex marriages with others made when he had not yet become Pope, to appear as if he indeed has a history of backing LGBT+.
Point four reads: “Pope Francis doesn’t in any way support marriages between men or women which are contrary to human nature. It is against the doctrine and teachings of the Catholic Church, it undermines mankind’s ability to expand and doesn’t bring happiness as desired by human nature.”
Point five continues: “The people who make such a choice is a sin which the Catholic Church strongly denounces. However, God doesn’t give up on sinners. What Pope Francis actually said is that it is the right of people in same sex marriages to live in their families where they are born without being tormented. The other issue is that there is need to be close to these people since they are weak to guide them to change to agreeable manners, so that they are righteous and loved.”
When the Pope’s comments emerged, in Rwanda, media followed with interviews with a self-declared homosexual Albert Nabonibo, who said he was very happy the Pope was in favour of LGBT.
“The Pope’s stance helps us in our journey to live as we wish,” said Nabonibo who has been vilified and even lost his job when he came out in 2018.
The denunciation from the Episcopal Conference of Rwanda of the reports of Pope Francis endorsing homosexuality, are the latest following up on Catholic Churches in other countries also doing so.
Whether the Pope actually said what he is reported to have said, or the translation from Spanish was wrongly done, the reaction from other arms of the Church was expected.
For the Episcopal Conference of Rwanda, it is not the first time they have come out to explain Pope Francis’ messages to the more than 5million Catholics in Rwanda.
Following President Paul Kagame’s 2017 visit to the Vatican for a highly anticipated meeting with Pope Francis, the Church in Rwanda issued a clarification of the what actually the Pope has said about the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
“(The pope) implored anew God’s forgiveness for the sins and failings of the Church and its members, among whom priests, and religious men and women who succumbed to hatred and violence,” the Vatican said in a statement.
In Rwanda, Monseigneur Rukamba said at the time in local media interviews that the Pope had asked for God’s forgiveness on behalf of the Church’s members who took part in the genocide.
“To us, the Church as an institution didn’t commit genocide, it was individual members of the Church,” said Rukamba.
The Episcopal Conference followed up early last year with another controversial move. It wrote pastoral letter demanding government releases elderly and sick genocide convicts.