Fresh from being named among the 13 new Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church and the first Rwanda prelate in history to attain the rank, Archbishop Antoine Kambanda says that he was caught off-guard by the October 25 announcement by the Pontiff.
In his first interview upon being announced, the Archbishop of Kigali said on Rwanda Television that he was not aware of the development and it had not crossed his mind that he would be designated a Cardinal by Pope Francis.
“We thank God for his mercies, for it is He who decides everything. It is something I never thought of, but by the power of God, it has happened. I also thank His Holiness Pope Francis for showing trust in me and surprising me because I had no idea this was going to happen. People started telling me about it and I couldn’t believe it until I got the confirmation,” Archbishop Kambanda said.
“So, I’m thankful to God for this and I commit myself to continue serving him. This is something I love with all my heart and I have dedicated my life to serving him. This means a lot. The trust that has been put in me means that I will continue to serve the church wholeheartedly,” he said.
Archbishop Kambanda said that his elevation to Cardinal is a result of a number of factors, including the relationship between the church and country, the role of the church in Rwanda and his contribution in spreading the gospel and ensuring that the church promotes harmony and co-existence.
Relations between the Vatican and Kigali have been on the mend, following Pope Francis’ acknowledgement that the church could have done better in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in protecting the people, apologizing to those who felt let down by the Church.
President Paul Kagame and the First Lady Mrs Jeannette Kagame visited the Vatican in March 2017 on the invitation of Pope Francis, marking a new chapter of relations between Rwanda and the Roman Catholic Church.
Archbishop Kambanda said that the fact that Rwanda has a good relationship with the Catholic Church is important as it fosters improved collaborations and partnerships geared towards improving the lives of Rwandans.
The Roman Catholic Church is a key partner of the Government especially in the education and health sectors.
Archbishop Kambanda is the first Rwandan Cardinal in Rwanda and will only be the 2nd Cardinal in Service, together with the one of Kinshasa. Elsewhere, the Cardinals in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam have all retired after completing their mandate.
“It is a great honour not only for me but for the entire church in Rwanda and this creates hope for the Church in Rwanda. It comes with a number of privileges as one becomes an advisor of the Pope and is given a place in Diocese of Rome as one of the Pope’s Councilors,”
“It also gives you the right to participate in the selection of the new Pope and it also puts you among the people that qualify to be elected for the position of the People,” Archbishop Kambanda explained the benefits of becoming a cardinal.
He however emphasized that the number one task is to advance evangelism in the country and across the world, to grow the church further.
On whether he will stay in his position, Cardinal-designate Kambanda said that he will continue to serve in his position, unless the Pontiff assigns him other duties.
He was among the 13 Prelates to attain the rank of Cardinal, named by Pope Francis this Sunday. In a surprise announcement, Pope Francis elevated the 13 Archbishops from different parts of the world.
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.
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.