President Paul Kagame today announced he will soon meet with heads of Catholic Church in Rwanda to share with them what he termed “constructive” discussion he had with Pope Francis earlier this year.
“It has been a long time without meeting you. But very soon I will meet and share with you constructive discussion I had with Pope Francis,”Kagame told the Catholic Clergy this afternoon in Kabgayi, Southern Rwanda.
The President was accompanied by the First Lady Mrs. Jeannette Kagame to attend celebrations marking 100th Anniversary of Catholic Priesthood in Rwanda.
It was on October 7, 1917, when Mgr. Jean Joseph Hirth ordained the first Rwandan priests; Fr. Balthazard Gafuku and Donat Reberaho at a ceremony that took place in Kabgayi.
Kagame pledged to help renovate the area and turn it into a modern place.
“I will talk to the Ministers concerned and see how we can help you modernise.
But in 1994 during the genocide against Tutsi, Catholic church was actively involved – leaving scars on the hearts of Rwandans.
Government had since put Vatican under pressure to come out and apologise for the Church’s role in the genocide against Tutsi that claimed over 1 million lives.
However, 23 years later, Kagame told thousands of catholic believers and government officials that his recent meeting with Pope Francis yielded a good symbol and that it is time to begin a new chapter.
The President paid tribute to Catholic missionaries who ordained Rwandans and bringing the religion to the country – saying the Church has played a significant role in the country’s transformation.
“The Rwandan priests were pioneers in recording and giving value to our culture, history and language,” Kagame said.
“The day marked the first responsibility given to Rwandan children to start spreading the message of Jesus,” says 85-year-old Fr. Bernardin Muzungu – a Rwandan priest who has served the church for the past 56 years.
Today marked the end to various celebration activities in honour of 100 years jubilee.
“We decided to celebrate this anniversary for a span of two years. We travelled to different neighbouring countries such as Tanzania and Uganda to mark the missionary journey to Rwanda,”Said Mgr. Philippe Rukamba, the Chairman of Episcopal Council of Rwanda.
It was a colourful ceremony attended by high-ranking Catholic officials as from as far as Vatican, France,Tanzania and neighbouring Burundi.
The event started early morning with prayer mass broadcast live on state television.
Catholic Church has funded numerous development projects such as schools,hospitals,investment in hospitality among others.
For instance, the Church owns 361 nursery schools across the country, 1,059 primary schools; 570 Secondary schools and 13 institutions of learning.
“65% of all public schools in Rwanda are Catholic co-owned,” the Archbishop of Kabgayi, Mgr. Smaragde Mbonyintege told KT Press.
Shangi in current Rusizi district in Western Rwanda, is where the first white missionary surfaced to preach Catholic religion.
The historical ceremony to ordain first Rwanda priests took place just 17 years after Mgr. Jean Joseph Hirth – the first white missionary priest arrived in Rwanda in 1900.
He established the first Catholic churches in Save, Huye district in Southern Rwanda and Zaza in Ngoma District, Eastern Province.