Kibeho (Fides Service) – “I exhort you to prayer fervently that this Kibeho Shrine may become a place from which there will arise a people of Rwanda renewed in faith, thirsting for love for their God, determined to forget the sad past of fratricidal war”. On 31 May Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples consecrated a new Marian Shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows, a place of pilgrimage for Catholics in Rwanda and neighbouring countries, at Kibeho where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared several times in 1981 and later years. Present for the Mass, the Bishops of Rwanda, the apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, civil and local authorities, numerous priests, religious men and women and pastoral workers.
The young visionaries say that when the Blessed Virgin appeared she introduced herself as Nyina wa Jambo, Mother of the Word, and she called for prayer, fasting and conversion of heart. Only once Our Lady showed the young people a horrible scene: a river of blood, people killing each other, abandoned corpses, no one to bury them…This terrifying vision was later related to the genocide which disrupted Rwanda in 1994/1995, of which Kibeho was one of the worst affected areas. “The sacrifice of thousands of people killed inside and around the old church building, cries loudly to all of us – Cardinal Sepe said in his homily – and calls us to take a new path, the path of peace, of reciprocal forgiveness for the blows inflicted and the path of reconciliation. A true people of God cannot harbour feelings of hatred, division, revenge, which are foreign to God and to his love”.
The Prefect of the Missionary Department went on to recall the commandment of love which Jesus gave to his disciples and he urged Rwandan to welcome God in their hearts: “From the home of your heart he wishes to sanctify your life, bless your families, inspire you to work for the common good of all, to spread in this nation Gospel values on which to build a human and religious social life worthy of his Name”. The Cardinal Sepe spoke of the many pilgrimages made to this place from various parts of Africa, and the conversions of many pilgrims who found again the faith they had lost. “Every pilgrim who comes to Kibeho and is reconciled with God and man, must become a builder of a new humanity, builder of a new Rwandan people, ever more faithful to God”. SL (Fides Service 31/5/2003 EM lines 31 Words: 457)