Archbishop Antoine Kambanda Elevated to ‘Cardinal’ by Pope Francis

Archbishop Kambanda with President Paul Kagame at his consecration in January 2019

Archbishop Antoine Kambanda of Kigali Archdiocese has become the first Rwandan archbishop to attain the rank of Cardinal, after he emerged among 13 new cardinals named by Pope Francis this Sunday. 

In a surprise announcement, Pope Francis elevated the 13 Archbishops from different parts of the world, including Archbishop Kambanda who is the first Rwandan Roman Catholic Church clergyman to attain such heights. 

Archbishop Kambanda, who is turning 62 this November, was named Archbishop of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kigali on 11 November 2018. Before that, he was the Bishop of Kibungo Diocese since 2013. 

He will officially be assigned the rank of cardinal by Pope Francis at a consistory scheduled for 28 November 2020. 

Born on 10 November 1958 in Rwanda, Bishop Kambanda’s family fled from the ethnic violence that gripped Rwanda at the time where they moved briefly to Burundi and then to Uganda, where he attended elementary, and then to Kenya, where he attended high school. 

He later returned to Rwanda, where he attended the junior Seminary in Rutongo, Kigali, from 1983 to 1984 and joined the Saint Charles Borromeo Major Seminary of Nyakibanda in Butare, in the current Huye District, from 1984 to 1990). 

On September 8, 1990, he was ordained a priest in Kabgayi by Pope John Paul II. After that he was Prefect of Studies from 1990 to 1993 in the minor seminary of St. Vincent in Ndera, Kigali.

He then attended the Alphonsian Academy in Rome from 1993 to 1999, where he obtained a doctorate in moral theology. His parents and five of his six siblings, along with many other relatives and friends, were killed in 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. 

Kambanda was appointed Director of the diocesan office of Caritas in Kigali in 1999. He then became director of the Development Committee of the Diocese of Kigali, head of the “Justice and Peace” Commission of the diocese, and professor of moral theology and visitor at the Nyakibanda Major Seminary. 

Speaking in 2004 of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Kambanda acknowledged that while some members of the Catholic clergy had tried to protect the people, others had been complicit in the killings. 

Kambanda noted the need for the Catholic Church itself to undergo reconstruction to shake off the effects of the genocide. He has said “the use of the sacrament of penance for reconciliation and healing of ethnic hatred and the reconciliation with oneself, with God and with the others, would be significant to develop a faith characterized by trust that overcomes the fear of the other.” 

According to his Wikipedia page, in September 2005 Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe appointed him rector of the inter-diocesan major philosophy seminary in Kabgayi.

On 10 February 2006 Kambanda was appointed rector of the Saint Charles Borromeo Major Seminary of Nyakibanda. He replaced Monseigneur Smaragde Mbonyintege, who had been named a bishop. 

On 7 May 2013, Pope Francis named Kambanda Bishop of Kibungo, succeeding Kizito Bahujimihigo, who resigned in January 2010. The Episcopal Conference of Rwanda elected him to attend the Synod of Bishops in 2015. On 19 November 2018, Pope Francis named him Archbishop of Kigali. 

Archbishop Kambanda becomes the first clergyman to attain the rank of Cardinal in Rwanda.

Other Archbishops elevated to the rank of Cardinal include Washington D.C. Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who will become the first Black U.S. prelate to earn the coveted red hat. 

Other new cardinals include an Italian who is the long-time papal preacher at the Vatican, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, a Franciscan friar; the Capiz, Philippines, Archbishop Jose Feurte Advincula, the Santiago, Chile, Archbishop Celestino Aos and Franciscan Friar Mauro Gambetti, in charge of the Sacred Convent in Assisi.

New cardinals under the age of 80 will join fellow cardinals eligible to elect the next pontiff in a secret conclave. No details were immediately given by the Vatican about the consistory ceremony in light of the New Coronavirus travel restrictions.




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