Pilgrim´s Church Is Sign of Peace in Bloodstained Burundi

Built by Schoenstatt Movement at Height of Ethnic Conflict

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BUJUMBURA, Burundi, JUNE 6, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Amid ethnic conflicts, the Pilgrim´s Church was blessed recently in Bujumbura, as a sign of peace in bloodstained Burundi.

The Mass, attended by 10,000 pilgrims, was concelebrated May 26 by three bishops and 60 priests. The church was consecrated in honor of the Trinity.

In Burundi, the ethnic war between Hutus and Tutsis erupted in October 1993 when Tutsi paratroopers assassinated the central African country´s first democratically elected leader, a Hutu. To date, the war has killed 200,000 people, the majority civilians.

The fighting persists, despite the fact that a transitional government was inaugurated in November, following the signing of a power-sharing agreement by President Pierre Buyoya, 17 political parties and the National Assembly.

Bishop Evariste Ngoyagoye of Bujumbura consecrated the church, and Archbishop Michel Courteney, apostolic nuncio, read a message from John Paul II, calling for reconciliation and peace in the country of 6.2 million, which continues to be racked by civil war.

Bishop Joseph Nduhirubusa of Ruyigy, who recently had been kidnapped by rebels, also attended the four-hour Mass. Also present were prominent political leaders, including Sophie Buyoya, the president´s wife, and thousands of refugees who have been living on the city´s outskirts since January.

The Pilgrim´s Church has a seating capacity of 3,000 and an adjacent amphitheater. The Pilgrim´s Church is located in the Mount Sion Gijungu Schoenstatt center, which since its blessing in 1994 has become a key pilgrimage center.

Last month was the 40th anniversary of the arrival of the first three Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary in Mutumba, 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of the Burundi capital. The four Schoenstatt priests who work at the center belong to the Swiss province. There are 11 religious in formation.

The architect of the church is Edmond Remondino of Switzerland, who has lived in Burundi for over 20 years. Donations from Europe and from Burundi´s Catholics paid for the construction.

For more information see www.schoenstatt.de.

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