Wednesday, August 26, 1998 Published at 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Rebels blamed for Congo massacre
The rebels are alleged to have attacked in revenge
As fighting continues in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Vatican has disclosed that 37 people have been massacred at a Roman Catholic mission in the east of the country.
A priest, a student priest and three nuns, are said to be among those killed on Monday at the town of Kasika 80km from Bukavu in South Kivu province.
All of the dead are thought to be Congolese.
The Vatican said the attack was carried out by Tutsi rebels in revenge for the killing of Tutsi soldiers at the nearby town of Mwenga on Sunday.
Pope John Paul II on Wednesday deplored the massacre.
"It is with deep sadness that I learned the news of the massacre on Monday at Kasika parish in the diocese of Uvira.
"I strongly deplore this criminal act," the pontiff said at the end of a general audience at the Vatican.
The rebels attacked because they suspected local people of giving food to a pro-government militia, the Vatican said.
He adds that the missionary activities of the Roman Catholic Church are crucial to economic and social life in this part of Africa.
Foreign intervention criticised
The massacre comes as President Laurent Kabila's government, aided by foreign troops, continues to battle a three-week-old rebellion.
The Zimbabwean military, which along with Angola is supporting President Kabila, earlier gave its first account of the fighting, saying its air force helped destroy a five-kilometre column of rebel tanks and armoured cars in the south west.
A Zimbabwean spokesman said the priority for the moment was to protect the capital, Kinshasa.
Uganda and Rwanda, which are sympathetic to the rebels, also have troops in Congo - though both countries still deny they are fighting actively on the rebel side.
But claims by the government's Angolan allies to have recaptured the eastern city of Kisangani are unsupported by independent sources.
President Kabila is trying to fight back in the east, using tribal militias. But our correspondent says the battle to reach the rebel lines across vast tracts of thick jungle may be the most difficult one.
The unconfirmed attacks on civilians are said to have taken place throughout Monday at the rebel frontline around 50km south-west of Kinshasa.