Pope Francis has dismissed from the clerical duties, Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, a Rwandan priest who is a key mastermind of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Munyeshyaka, who has lived in France for nearly three decades, was notified of Pope Francis’s decision by Bishop of Evreux, Christian Nourrichard, on Tuesday, May 2.
He is accused of masterminding the Genocide in different parts of Kigali, but most especially the killings at Saint Famille Catholic Church, where he was a priest in 1994.
In his letter to Munyeshyaka, Nourrichard, says “By Decree dated March 23, 2023, received last week, the Sovereign Pontiff Pope Francis, by his supreme and final decision which is not subject to any appeal, has dismissed in poenam from the clerical state Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, incardinated in the Archdiocese of Kigali (Rwanda) and currently residing in the Diocese of Evreux.”
“Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka is exempt from all obligations arising from sacred ordination, automatically loses all the rights specific to the clerical state, is excluded from the exercise of the sacred ministry and cannot function as lector or acolyte, nor to drink communion nowhere.
“He should avoid places where his previous status is known.”
Bishop Nourrichard noted that the Pope’s decree took immediate effect on May 3.
However, the reason behind Pope Francis’s decision to dismiss Munyeshyaka from the clergy was not communicated in the letter.
A former vicar of Sainte Famille, Munyeshyaka is accused of taking part in killings in various parts of the capital and handing over Tutsi women who had sought refuge at his church to militiamen to be raped.
Munyeshyaka is renowned for having been the priest who moved around with a gun and military attire during the Genocide and worked very closely with some of the key masterminds of Genocide, including the former mayor of Kigali, Col Tharcisse Renzaho, among others.
As reported in December 2021, Munyeshyaka had been suspended from clerical duties by Bishop Nourrichard, after it was found out that he had sired a son.
In 2006, Munyeshyaka was convicted of genocide crimes in absentia by Gacaca courts.
He faced more charges at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), but the UN tribunal later referred his case to the French judiciary, which in 2015 dismissed it despite overwhelming evidence, attracting uproar from survivors of his crimes and the government of Rwanda.
Munyeshyaka remained in France where he continued to serve as a priest in different parishes, until his 2021 suspension by Nourrichard.