Troubled Rwanda Has a New Marian Shrine

Apparitions in Kibeho Foreshadowed the 1990s Genocide

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KIBEHO, Rwanda, JUNE 2, 2003 (ZENIT.orgFides).- A land long accustomed to war now has a new Marian shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows.

«I exhort you to pray fervently that this Kibeho Shrine may become a place from which there will arise a people of Rwanda renewed in faith, thirsting for love for their God, determined to forget the sad past of fratricidal war,» said Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, on Saturday, when consecrating the shrine.

The shrine in Kibeho, a place of pilgrimage for Catholics in Rwanda and neighboring countries, is where the Blessed Virgin appeared several times in 1981 and later years.

Present at the Mass were the bishops of Rwanda; the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio; civil and local authorities; numerous priests; religious; and pastoral workers.

The young visionaries say that when the Blessed Virgin appeared she introduced herself as Nyina wa Jambo, Mother of the Word, and she called for prayer, fasting and conversion of heart.

Only once did Our Lady show the young people a horrible scene: a river of blood, people killing each other, abandoned corpses, no one to bury them. This terrifying vision was later related to the genocide which disrupted this central African republic in 1994-1995. Kibeho was one of the worst affected areas.

«The sacrifice of thousands of people killed inside and around the old church building, cries loudly to all of us and calls us to take a new path, the path of peace, of reciprocal forgiveness for the blows inflicted, and of reconciliation,» Cardinal Sepe said in his homily.

«A true people of God cannot harbor feelings of hatred, division, revenge, which are foreign to God and to his love,» he said.

The prefect went on to recall the commandment of love which Jesus gave to his disciples and he urged Rwandans to welcome God in their hearts: «From the home of your heart he wishes to sanctify your life, bless your families, inspire you to work for the common good of all, to spread in this nation Gospel values on which to build a human and religious social life worthy of his Name.»

Cardinal Sepe spoke of the many pilgrimages made to this shrine from various parts of Africa, and the conversions of many pilgrims who return to the faith.

«Every pilgrim who comes to Kibeho,» he said, «and is reconciled with God and man, must become a builder of a new humanity, builder of a new Rwandan people, ever more faithful to God.»

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