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Pope meets Rwandan bishop acquitted of genocide
VATICAN CITY -- Pope John Paul II has had a private audience with a Roman Catholic bishop acquitted of genocide charges in Rwanda, who will return to his central African country despite fears for his life.
Bishop Augustin Misago said before the meeting that he would thank the Pope for his support during his imprisonment. The Pope had sent a message of solidarity before the verdict handed down in June by a court in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.
Misago, who came to Europe for treatment for a heart problem, told the Vatican news agency Fides he was now well and planned to return to Rwanda on September16.
"I was already ill before the arrest and one year in jail worsened my situation," Misago told Fides, the news agency of the Vatican's missionary arm.
Misago, who argued he was a scapegoat and victim of a political campaign against the Roman Catholic Church, was acquitted of the genocide charges on June 15.
Hutu extremists massacred some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in three months of ethnic slaughter which ended in July 1994 when a rebel army led by the country's current president seized power.
Misago, a Hutu, could have been sentenced to death by firing squad if he had been found guilty of colluding with local authorities to send three priests and several dozen schoolchildren to their deaths at the hands of ethnic Hutu militiamen.
During the trial Misago said he attended meetings where massacres were planned but only as part of an effort to urge an end to the killings.
Asked if he was afraid of returning to Rwanda, Misago said: "There are risks in returning. There will be new difficulties waiting for me but I am ready to face them.
"The arrest, a year of imprisonment, the demand for a death sentence all point to the fact that there is a desire to eliminate me," he said.
"A lot of friends in Europe have advised me not to go back because it is dangerous but I have to go back. I did not escape when I was accused so how could I remain in exile after I have been found innocent," he said. "If I don't return there could remain some doubt about my innocence."
Misago said Rwanda's problems were deeply rooted in what he called "a thirst for power" between its two main tribes.
"Peace and justice will be possible if there is a political will to share power. If one group wants to hold on to power and another wants to get it, each in a selfish way, nothing will be gained," he added.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Rwandan bishop denies accusations of genocide
Vatican City | Catholic-Pages.com
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