Thousands of Christians and clerics from across Rwanda and abroad as well as senior government officials, led by Prime Minister Dr. Edouard Ngirente on Saturday, June 17, attended the consecration of Balthazar Ntivuguruzwa as the new bishop of Kabgayi diocese.
The colourful ceremony at Kabgayi Stadium to install Bishop Ntivuguruzwa, who is replacing Msgr. Smaragde Mbonyintege who retired on March 2, 2023, attracted the catholic faithful and high dignitaries representing different institutions.
Other guests included Bishop Arnaldo Sanchez Catalan, the papal nuncio to Rwanda, Chief Justice Dr. Faustin Ntezilyayo, Ministers and others who came to witness the proceedings.
Celebrations and mass were led by Cardinal Antoine Cardinal Kambanda, Archbishop of Kigali and head of the Roman Catholic Church in Rwanda while the Vatican envoy delivered a message on behalf of Pope Francis.
In his message, Pope Francis congratulated Bishop Ntivuguruzwa upon his consecration and welcomed him as a new addition to the church’s leadership, urging him to be vigilant and steadfast in doing the work he devoted himself to.
“The bishop must be close to the bishops, his priests and the masses of God. You are called to be a pastor who shows compassion and mercy and as your motto says, ‘Orate in veritate’, truth begins to be the knot of your prayer,” the Pope said in his message.
Pope Francis assured Bishop Ntivuguruzwa that they will work closely with him as he executes his duties and will not abandon him. He asked priests and devotees to work together in helping people and making the lives of others better.
He also urged the government to continue strengthening charity and social activities in both education and health.
Dr. Ngirente, who was the guest of honour, representing President Paul Kagame, in his speech hailed the cooperation between the government and the Catholic Church, particularly in areas of health, education and social welfare.
“This diocese has made a significant contribution to education, healthcare, and other sectors that reflect the well-being of Rwandans,”
“Government fully appreciates the role of religions and churches in building a capable Rwandan who respects God and government programs,” the Premier said.
Dr. Ngirente commended outgoing Monsignor Mbonyintege for his service and contribution to the development of the country through the various activities the diocese did under his tenure.
Similarly, the Prime Minister congratulated incoming Bishop Ntivuguruzwa, telling him that the fact that Pope Francis chose him, is a sign of the wisdom and trust he saw in him, urging him to pick up the mantle from his predecessor and continue working with the government to improve the quality of education.
“We are proud that you have been an educator. In that regard, we are looking forward to your continued contribution in the education sector, as you have been doing, as we work together to improve the quality of education.”
Using the phrase, ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body, Dr. Ngirente asked Rwandans to adhere to government programs aimed at improving their lives and health.
He also praised the Church for the contribution they made towards helping those affected by the deadly floods and landslides in different parts of the country earlier this year, even though the Church was also affected in one way or another.
Regarding the assistance requested by the diocese of Kabgayi for the school of nursing and midwifery, the Prime Minister said that an appropriate solution will be found to improve the upbringing of Rwanda.
“I will convey the message you gave me to the Head of State, but I can assure you the government will continue to cooperate with the Diocese of Kabgayi in various development activities,” he said.
Archbishop Kambanda, who is also the head of Conférence Episcopale du Rwanda (CER) said that it was a double celebration for the Catholic Church in Rwanda due to the fact that Kabgayi diocese got a new bishop shortly after the Diocese of Kibungo in Eastern Province got a new bishop.
“This year has been a blessed one for us and wish to congratulate the bishop-elect and wish you good luck in the pastoral duties you have been given today,”
“We request you to continue leading this crowd that you represent very well and keep encouraging them to pray in truth. To achieve this, the bishop must be united with those he leads,” Cardinal Kambanda told the newly installed Bishop.
Archbishop Kambanda extended his thanks to Pope Francis for bestowing trust in Bishop Ntivuguruzwa and as well as President Kagame for always working closely with the Church, urging Christians to continue praying for him to execute his leadership duties well in Rwanda and on the international scene.
Bishop Smaragde Mbonyintege, who is going into retirement, thanked those who were close to him, including President Kagame, during his 17-year journey leading the diocese of Kabgayi.
“I thank President Kagame for the many forms of support he has given us in developing further Kabgayi. He built us a good Maternity and Kabgayi hospital was upgraded to a level 1 teaching hospital,” he said.
Bishop Mbonyintege also thanked all the priests and members of the clergy he served with, pointing out that without them, he would have fulfilled his mandate.
In his inaugural speech, Bishop Ntivuguruzwa expressed his readiness to answer the call to serve as the Bishop of Kabgayi Diocese, paying tribute to those who showed confidence in him, especially Pope Francis, who appointed him to the post.
He thanked his predecessor Bishop Mbonyintege for being a good pastor during the 17 years he led the Catholic Diocese of Kabgayi and promised to carry on from where he stopped to advance the work of God.
“Today’s world needs worshipers to do it in truth with a heart free of hypocrisy. The time has come for our prayer to match words and actions,” said the newly installed bishop, urging other clerics to join hands in ministering to the masses.
Born on September 15, 1967, in the former prefecture of Gitarama, Ntivuguruzwa was ordained priesthood on January 18, 1997, as a priest of the Diocese of Kabgayi.
Bishop Balthazar Ntivuguruzwa, PhD, was appointed by Pope Francis on May 2, 2023.