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Gunman kills priest handing out communion in Rwanda

February 2, 1997

RUHENGERI, Rwanda (AP) _ A gunman killed a Roman Catholic priest who was delivering communion to parishioners in a small settlement in northwestern Rwanda on Sunday, church officials said.

The priest, who had worked in Rwanda for more than 35 years, was killed in Kampanga settlement and his body brought to the bishop’s residence, said an official with the Roman Catholic diocese in Ruhengeri. He spoke on condition he not been identified.

No Rwandan officials were available to comment and details were sketchy.

The priest was identified by his Missionaries of Africa order in Rome as the Rev. Guy Pinard, 61, originally from Trois Rivieres, Quebec.

``He was distributing communion and at that moment was shot, and died immediately,″ said the Rev. Pedro Sala. Kampanga is about 9 miles north of Ruhengeri, which is 60 miles northwest of the capital, Kigali.

Pope John Paul II first announced the priest’s death at the end of his weekly appearance from his window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

``The news has just reached me of the tragic loss of Father Guy Pinard, Missionary of Africa, barbarously murdered this morning during the celebration of holy Mass in his parish of Ruhengeri,″ the pope said.

The killing comes two weeks after three Spanish aid workers were killed and an American colleague wounded in an attack on their compound in Ruhengeri.

Two suspects arrested in the killing died later in custody under circumstances that have not been fully explained.

Most international aid agencies and United Nations operations withdrew from Ruhengeri after the killings, which the government attributes to Hutu insurgents. The insurgents returned to Rwanda from neighboring Zaire with more than a half-million refugees at the end of last year.

Rwandan officials say they have arrested some 6,000 of the returnees in connection with their alleged role in the slaughter organized by the previous Hutu government in 1994 of at least 500,000 people, most of them minority Tutsis.

Many members of the former government, army and local militias fled to Zaire when Tutsi rebels entered Kigali in July 1994 and put an end to the 100 days of killing.

About 40 members of the Missionaries of Africa, also known as the White Fathers, work in Rwanda.

Pinard was ``a man who took risks to save others who were in danger,″ Sala said. ``He was a man of truth, enthusiastic, quite a joyful man.″

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