STREETBOX 77 GIKONGORO
RWANDA / AFRICA
DECLARATION OF THE BISHOP OF GIKONGORO BEARING THE FINAL JUDGMENT ON THE EVENTS OF THE "APPARITIONS OF KIBEHO
To my brothers in the priesthood
To the religious,
To all the faithful laity,
Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, his Incarnated Word (cf. 1Cor.1, 3).
Twenty years have already passed since the beginning of the study of the dossier on the apparitions of Kibeho. Many of you had, without doubt, the opportunity of personally witnessing the apparitions; many others followed them through the media.
At the time of the first apparitions, Kibeho was part of the diocese of Butare under Mons. Bishop Jean Baptiste GAHAMANYI. He had to handle the situation for at least ten years before the Diocese of Gikongoro was founded in 1992 and did not spare any effort to closely follow these unusual events. For this purpose, two study commissions, one of doctors and one of theologians, were immediately set up; they have been at work since April 1982. On August 15th, 1988 the Bishop decided to approve a public devotion linked to the apparitions of Kibeho. Recognizing the legitimacy of this devotion, he deliberately put aside two questions whose solution was of capital importance for the future:
- Did the Virgin Mary and Jesus appear in Kibeho as some alleged visionaries affirm?
- If so, what visionary, man or woman, can be believed, in view of the large number of people who in those days began to talk about visions and messages from heaven?
I believe that the advanced state of the study commissions' work now offers sufficient elements to allow competent ecclesiastical authorities to pronounce definitively on this question.
First part :THE EVENTS
Brothers and sisters in Christ,
in a message which should be held by all means brief, it is almost impossible to say everything that we have on the mind and what we would like to make known. It seems unnnecessary to present all the context in detail. For this occasion, let us restrict ourselves only to few aspects.
1.1. Historical references
If the parish of Kibeho is being spoken of as a place of pilgrimage and apparitions, it is due to the fact that, on November 28th, 1981, a young student of the College of Kibeho, called Alphonsine Mumureke, claimed to see a Lady of incomparable beauty who presented herself as "Nyina wa Jambo", i.e. the "Mother of the Word", immediately recognised by the supposed visionary as the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus our Saviour. The phenomenon subsequently repeated itself spaced at longer or shorter intervals.
The first reactions created by these unusual events within the community of the College as well as outside were not tender at all. There were a variety of positions ranging from skepticism to a more or less enthusiasm that might lead to credulousness and intolerance. They first assumed Alphonsine to be crazy, to be either an unfortunate girl possessed by evil spirits or a poor student who simply wants to act up in order to be more appreciated in the school run by the Benebikira Sisters.
Inside the school community, there were people asking for evidence. Some even said, that they were ready to believe that the Blessed Virgin had decided to visit them, if she would show herself to others rather than to pitiful Alphonsine. Furthermore, a group of students, members of the Charismatic Renewal, took the initiative to organize a Novena of prayers during the first week of December 1981 to ask for enlightenment in this matter; meanwhile, others were going on testing Alphonsine during the apparitions.
The public did everything to find a natural explanation of the phenomenon, but without much success, given a set of astonishing events beyond the simple human understanding. Despite criticism and objections against the apparitions, a movement of devotees began to develop quite rapidly inside as well as outside the College of Kibeho. Already before the Christmas holidays in 1981, a group of students and “converted” professors assiduously joined the prayer meetings with Alphonsine, where they recited the rosary interlacing canticles in honour of the Blessed Virgin.
When a few weeks later, one after another, two new visionaries appeared in the College. Both of them were in conformance with Alphonsine, especially Marie Claire Mukangango, who had been well known for her strong opposition to the apparitions. This new development was immediately interpreted by some as a positive sign coming from heaven to all the double-minded who were reluctant to take the apparitions Alphonsine spoke about serious. Various witnesses who were interviewed at Kibeho College confirmed that they took the apparitions serious due to the case of Marie Claire.
From the month of May 1982, this phenomenon disspread outside the microcosmos of the College of Kibeho like a bush fire, reaching the surrounding hills and even the most rural areas. What is striking is that the number of visionaries within the College stopped at the number of three without the intervention of any external authority. On the contrary, the number of people outside the College claiming to be visionaries continued growing in a rather fast and troublesome way. From July 1982, about seven months after the beginning of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary, rumours abounded about people having seen apparitions of Jesus. As time passed, however, the suspected visionaries of Jesus, prominent among the pilgrims coming to Kibeho, developed a rather disturbing way of promoting their visions.
Another point to consider is that during the days of public apparitions, there were no group ecstasies at all, neither visionaries having apparitions at the same time. On the contrary, the visionaries took turns having individual apparitions, either by exchanging positions, or by benefitting alone of a "Celeste visit" almost exclusively while others were to attend like everyone else. The apparitions were generally marked by the fainting of the visionaries, who used to heavily hit the ground, especially at the end of an ecstasy.
First Alphonsine Mumureke and then Nathalie Mukamazimpaka said to have made a “mystical journey” together with the Virgin Mary for several hours, travelling through places which they described in a symbolic language, reminding us of realities such as hell, purgatory and heaven, but using vocabulary different from that of the catechism.
The significant time of the apparitions ended with the year 1983, when two of the supposed visionaries of Kibeho left the podium one after another, declaring that the apparitions had finished for them. This was except for Alphonsine, the rarefaction of whose apparitions became evident already before November 1982. Everything that happened after the year 1983 did not bring anything new compared to what had already been known, be it from the point of view of the message of Kibeho or concerning the signs of credibility.
The duration of the apparitions of Kibeho was remarkably long. Many words were said, and many mysterious things revealed over the years.The phenomenon of the proliferation of people claiming to be visionaries, however, continued to spread within the area of Kibeho and all across the country, misleading many pilgrims as well as persons responsible for the monitoring of these events.
Well-intentioned credulousness and an excess of respect for the religiousness of people appear to have contributed in one way or another to the proliferation of “pretenders”. There were even cases of people frequenting certain parts of the country to spread the so-called celestial messages, without the accord of the competent ecclesiastical authority. They left their own families to get hosted in convents and other religious communities. From there they went to harass the civil and religious authorities with the messages they pretended to have received from heaven; from time to time they presented themselves at Kibeho. Many people were troubled by these messages, consisting of simple banalities or troubling and confusing predictions.
Some of these “visionaries” said to have been given a special mission by Jesus and the Virgin Mary to proclaim their message abroad – especially in the neighbouring countries, but also in Europe or in North America, more specifically in Canada. On this issue, my predecessor, Mons. Gahamanyi, Bishop of the Diocese of Butare, which Kibeho belonged to until 1992, specified already in his pastoral letter of July 30th, 1986, that, since the case of Kibeho was under investigation, he, as the local ordinary, was in no way going to neither entrust any mission related to these events to any visionaries of any kind, nor would he approve of any messages which these visionaries would say to have received from heaven, even if some of the contents “are good and touch the hearts of people".
With this, the local ordinary aimed at the cases of the improvised visionary "missionaries" and itinerant preachers. He repeated the same position in his pastoral letter of August 15th, 1988. This position is still valid today and I advance the same view.
At a number of occasions, the local ordinary appealed to the common sense of the Christians and to their communion sense of faith, asking them to question with discernment each and every person claiming to have supernatural visions or to carry a particular message coming from heaven. A number of pilgrims coming to Kibeho started to learn, step by step, to discern the visionaries who, in their eyes, deserved to be listened to more carefully from a whole lot of others, who, on the contrary, seemed suspect or even false to various degrees.
In any case, two separate investigation commissions were soon established by the local ordinary: a medical commission, installed on March 20th, 1982 and a theological commission, installed on May 14th, 1982. These commissions, each following its own methods, started to work soon after, with much effort and a great dedication, investigating the events in all objectivity, patience, serenity and without putting into account their personal emotions.
Given the large number of the supposed visionaries, who had never had apparitions in a group and thus had to be investigated one by one, the commissions had to create methods of more efficiency in order to get on with their work. Thus, they gave priority to the first eight supposed visionaries: Those of the first year of the apparitions at Kibeho, i.e. between November 28th, 1981 and November 28th, 1982. This choice, however, was a working hypothesis, not a presumption of authenticity for such a large number of visionaries.
The investigation commissions produced numerous reports, presented to the authorities. In his pastoral letters on the events of Kibeho, my predecessor, Mons. Jean Baptiste Gahamanyi, briefly mentions the work accomplished as the investigations progressed. We are going to come back to this point in a few moments.
It is precisely in the light of the relevant conclusions of these reports, that he thought it to be suitable to formally approve of public worship at the site of the apparitions at Kibeho. This important event took place on August 15th, 1988 at the solemnity of the assumption of Mary. Ever since we are able to receive the Holy Eucharist and all other sacraments of the Church at the place of the apparitions and thus legitimately manifest our faith in relation to these events. However, the local ordinary needed to precise that allowing this devotion must not be confused with an eventually possible "recognition of the supernatural character of the apparitions at this site”. This implicates that none of the visionaries of Kibeho had been officially approved by that time.
The Church thus proceeded to examine the events with minuteness, rather reluctant about the recognition of the authenticity of the apparitions; ensuring, at the same time, that the spiritual fruit which already grew in Kibeho, were being protected by public worship.
The formal approval of the the worship at the site of the apparitions in Kibeho proved, among other aspects, that the "vox populi" had not got lost.
1.2. The contents of the message of Kibeho
Among the aspects which support the credibility of the apparitions of Kibeho, one of the most important is undoubtedly the "dialogues" of the visionaries with Our Lady, the quality of the message itself.
Certainly, the apparitions of Kibeho were many, and the time span in which they occurred was very long; the constitutive elements of the message, however, were delivered during the first two years of the apparitions, i.e. before the end of the year 1983. The Virgin Mary communicated to her visionaries miscellaneous messages, which, however, never opposed each other; we can easily discern various common points in them. In the context of this declaration, they shall be limited to a brief overview. In general, this message could be summarized in the following themes:
1 °. An urgent appeal to the repentance and conversion of hearts:
“Repent, repent, repent!"
"Convert while there is still time."
2 °. An assessment of the moral state of the world:
"The world conducts itself very badly." ("Ngo isi imeze nabi cyane.")
"The world hastens to its ruin, it will fall into the abyss”, in other words, “it is plunged into innumerable and unrelenting disasters." ("Ngo isi igiye kugwa mu rwobo.")
"The world is rebellious against God (ubu isi yarigometse), it commits too many sins, it has neither love nor peace."
"If you do not repent and do not convert your hearts, you will fall into the abyss."
3 °. The deep sorrow of the Mother of God:
The visionaries said to have seen the Virgin Mary crying on August 15th, 1982. The Mother of God was very saddened because of people’s unbelief and lack of repentance. She complained of our bad way of life, which is characterized by the slackness of customs, the likeness of evil, and continuous disobedience to God’s Commandments.
4 °. "Faith and unbelief will come unseen". (“Ngo ukwemera n’ubuhakanyi bizaza mu mayeri.”)
These mysterious words were repeatedly spoken by Mary to Alfonsine at the beginning of the revelations. She was asked to repeat them to the other people.
5 °. The suffering that saves:
This subject is among the most important among the revelations in Kibeho, particularly for Natalie Mukamazimpaka. Suffering, which is unavoidable in this life, is necessary for Christians to attain eternal glory. On May 15th, 1982, Mary said to her visionaries, especially to Natalie, “No one will reach heaven without suffering,” or, “A child of Mary does not reject suffering.” Suffering is both a means of compensating for the sins of the world and participating in Jesus’ and Mary’s sufferings for the salvation of the world. The visionaries were invited through this address to live very specifically, accepting suffering through faith in love, mortifying themselves and denying themselves pleasures for the conversion of the world. Thus, Kibeho is a reminder of the role of the cross in the life of a Christian and the Church.
6 °. “Pray always and single-heartedly”:
People are not praying, and those who do pray, do not pray as they should. Mary begs the visionaries to pray in abundance for the whole world, to teach others to pray, and to pray for those who do not pray themselves. Mary begs us to pray with greater zeal and purity of heart.
7 °. Marian devotion – expressed through sincere and regular praying of the rosary.
8 °. The Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary:
The visionary Marie Claire Mukangango said to have received revelations about the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary. The blessed Virgin loves this rosary. Well known in the past, it had been forgotten. The Mother of God of Kibeho desires for it to be renewed and spread in the Church. However, this prayer does not replace the Holy Rosary.
9 °. Mary desires that a chapel be built for her – as a sign of the remembrance of her revelations in Kibeho. This subject appears in the revelations of January 16th, 1982 and recurs many times in the course of the year with new supplements.
10 °. Pray always for the Church, when many troubles are upon it in the times to come. Thus Mary said to Alfonsine on August 15th, 1983 and on November 28th, 1983.
The apparitions of Kibeho often comprised rituals and symbols: The ritual of blessing (i.e. the blessing of water and with water, the blessing of people and the pilgrims' objects of piety), generally accompanied by words equal to prayers of intercession. Among the symbols we could mention the "field of flowers" or of "trees" which Our Lady asked the visionaries to water. These "flowers" or "trees" of different species and quality would symbolise the people who were to receive the message of the Virgin Mary: The more people were converted, the wider the "field of flowers” got.
According to the alleged visionaries, Mary’s address in Kibeho “is not directed to only one person nor does it concern only the current time; it is directed to everyone in the entire world.”
The analysis of the conversions with the visionaries makes it clear that in their view, the Mother of God did not come to Kibeho with new teaching, but to remind us with full clarity of that which we had forgotten. She came to awaken us, to shake our consciences, to warn us, to remind us of our responsibilities as children of God, to lead us onto the right path, and to motivate us to correct their lives. In short, she came for the sake of our spiritual renewal and salvation. Mary, who is our mother, cannot abandon her children to their destruction. Even more saddening is the blindness and the hardening of our hearts."
1.3. The spiritual fruit
When we talk about apparitions and private revelations, we have to seriously ask ourselves whether they yield fruit – good fruit after all. This is one of the decisive factors of these phenomena. Indeed, the visions and the messages, as well as charisms, as St. Paul tells us, are given to the visionary not for the sake of him or herself but for the good of everyone. Each tree is recognised by its own fruit (Mt.7, 15-20; Mt.12, 33; Lc.6, 43-44).
In 1985, the theological commission for the apparitions of Kibeho carried out an investigation in the parishes, religious communities, secondary schools and universities all over the country, in order to "collect the reactions to the events of Kibeho in Christian communities". The outcome of this investigation showed, that the apparitions had promoted actual conversions at all levels and an undeniable spiritual renewal, which the surprising increase of vocations to priesthood and religious life throughout the country was a visible sign of.
In his second pastoral letter on the events of Kibeho, published on July 30th, 1986, Mons. Jean Baptiste GAHAMANYI, Bishop of the Diocese of Butare, already expressed his joy to see "signs of a new fervour" due to the apparitions in Kibeho. The Bishop commented this as following (Mons. J.B. Gahamanyi, Second Pastoral Letter on the Events of Kibeho, Butare 30/07/1986, p. 6-7.):
I know that the events of Kibeho could contribute to create a new fervour, already discernible in our Church today. In these last years, many Christians, including young people and intellectuals, renewed their religious practice; some who had become indifferent are now reconciled with God and their neighbours. We can clearly see that there are more people attending Sunday masses and masses during the week throughout the country; the sacrament of penance is more and more requested, as Christians have understood its importance in their spiritual lifes.
Even though it still remains very limited, this religious awakening is undeniable. It has multiple causes related to the evolution of the Church in our time. It would be an exaggeration of attributing this process to the events of Kibeho only. We must acknowledge, however, that these events did favour a development of new Marian devotion in the country; that they have led many Christians back to reciting the rosary and to regularly, if not daily, meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, recalling the importance of their faith. Many people gave testimony to their conversion because of Kibeho.
I rejoice in this renewal of faith and prayer, and I glorify the Lord. I urge the shepherds of souls to pay careful attention to this entire movement of religious renewal, to lead their flock in the paths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to ensure a solid doctrinal basis through the continuous formation of the faithful, especially in places of popular belief in the Church.
In this context, I think it is useful to emphasize on the necessary relationship between the devotion to Mary and our great love for Christ and our neighbour. The Blessed Virgin Mary showers us with the same deep love that she has for her divine son. Her only desire is to see us united with Jesus, living his life, putting all his teachings into practice. – It is Him, “the way, the truth and the life", and "no one comes to the Father except through" him (Jn 14, 6). "For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people” (1 Tm 2, 5-6).
It is therefore, that we must, above all, seek Jesus our Saviour and Lord; we cannot really love Mary if we do not focus on Jesus with all our strength. Mary leads us to Jesus, she shows us the way and helps us to do whatever Jesus tells us (cf. Jn 2, 5).
When Mons. J.B. Gahamanyi officially approved public worship in relation with the apparitions of Kibeho on August 15th, 1988, he justified this pastoral order with the concern to "protect the good spiritual fruit which the events of Kibeho produced in the Church here in Rwanda and abroad". A little later, he explained again, that, by approving public worship, he wished “to keep the spiritual radiation generated by the events of Kibeho going and to channel the momentum of piety which has been manifesting itself during these past seven years..." (see Mons. J.B. Gahamanyi, Pastoral letter on the occasion of the closing of the Marian year, Butare 15/08/1988, p. 15.).
Reading the pastoral letter addressed to the faithful the evening before the visit of the Pope John Paul II in Rwanda, the members of the Catholic Episcopal Conference of Rwanda evoked the phenomenon of the apparitions, urging the Christians to be more vigilant and attentive to the criteria of discernment established by the Church, for rumours about the apparitions had spread all over the country.
Specifically on the events of Kibeho, the bishops declared: "The situation has not yet cleared up enough to allow us to affirm the authenticity of these apparitions. The commissions have not yet completed their investigations. Nevertheless, while waiting for their conclusions, we cannot ignore the fact that a good number of faithful have benefited from these events, have converted and renewed themselves, have returned to prayer and to the sacraments, have deepened their devotion to the Virgin Mary, Mother of our Saviour and of the Church" (see The Bishops of Rwanda, Pastoral letter on the word of God in the life of the Christian, 14/08/1990, p. 19-20.).
In his homily during the solemnity of the assumption of Mary at Kibeho on August 15th, 1991, Mons. J.B. Gahamanyi confirmed his belief that Kibeho is standing at the beginning a new fervour in Christian life and has already brought rich fruit. The Bishop acknowledges that "Christians from various parts of Rwanda organised themselves and went on a pilgrimage to Kibeho, accompanied by a priest who was helping them with their prayers ..." (Mons. J.B. Gahamanyi, Homily cited, p.5.).
The Bishop still asked to consider that "despite the serious consequences of the war that our country has been witnessing since October 1990, many people came for these meetings. In the midst of these groups there was a sincere atmosphere of prayer noticeable at all times.” He still emphasised on the same idea, saying: "... The witnesses following the events in Kibeho were always touched by the atmosphere of faith and prayer there, no matter what country or continent they came from. The atmosphere at Kibeho impresses many faithful from other countries of Africa as well as pilgrims from Europe or America. It even touches people who come to Kibeho without sharing our faith. This phenomena rises above the nowadays so popular search for the supernatural. We don't come to Kibeho to see what is going to happen, but we go there to pray. We can say that the lion's share of the crowds of people gathered there, thirst to deepen their Christian lifes" (see Mons. J.B. Gahamanyi, Homily cited, p.12.).
These observations of the apparitions of my venerated predecessor as local ordinary say much about the impact of these events on the Church of Rwanda; yes, to a certain extent even on the Church abroad.
It should be noted that the pastoral letters and all other messages from Mons. J.B. Gahamanyi on the events of Kibeho were prepared by members of the investigation commissions and discussed in a penal debate before their publication. From this we take it, that Mons. Gahamanyi did not just share his thoughts with the public. His letters and public statements on Kibeho are somehow the mirror of the commissions' progress in the canonical investigation.
The existence of the spiritual fruit "in Rwandan Christianity, revealed through these events," (cit. Mons. Gahamanyi) is perceptible even after the civil war and the genocide in Rwanda and the other countries of the Great Lakes region, which painfully marked the year 1990 and the years after.
It is true that the killing and the genocide propagated feelings of confusion and grief; they made us discover to what extent the cruelty of humankind can go. One could argue against the credibility of the apparitions of Kibeho: How dare we speak of the spiritual fruit of apparitions in a place where such a human tragedy took place; while its consequences are still visible?
Some say that evangelisation was all for nothing given the horrors of the genocide and and the massacres perpetrated in 1994 and thereafter. And yet, the Holy Scriptures and the long tradition of the Church are filled with examples that make us reflect on what St Paul, Apostle of Jesus Christ, calls the "Mystery of Impiety", which works in the world (see 2 Tes 2, 1-12). The parable of the sower (Mt.13, 1-9 18-23) and the parable of the tares (Mt.13 24-30) are a key to the comprehension of the assumed failures of evangelisation.
The blindness and the hard-heartedness that the people of God in the Old Testament are repeatedly blamed for refers to a biblical theme that we can find all through the history of salvation. The prophecies of the prophets have not always been properly heard and followed. See, for example, the following passage taken from the Prophet Jeremiah:
' […] From the time your forefathers left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their ancestors.' "When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer. Therefore say to them, 'This is the nation that has not obeyed the LORD its God or responded to correction. Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips. [...]' (Jer 7, 25-28)
Considering these words of the Old Testament and applying them to our own personal situation can probably reconcile us with the somewhat harsh words that the Virgin Mary repeatedly told us through her visionaries in Kibeho, especially during the apparition of August 15th, 1982, at the joyful feast of the assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven.
Looking back, considering the statements and actions of the visionaries of Kibeho, it strikes us that the great misfortune that struck Rwanda and its neighbouring countries during the last decade might have been, in one way or another, predicted though the apparitions at Kibeho. The same applies to the drama our Church has lived through these past years, especially in 1994 and afterwards.
As a matter of fact, the message of Kibeho has not yet succeeded in converting all the people of Rwanda and all those who may have had heard about it elsewhere in the world; nevertheless, it has certainly borne fruit and there are blossoms for fruit to grow. Thus, the relapse of “converted” into sin, the horrors of war, the terror of the genocide, together with other consecutive tragedy that we all witness today, cannot be taken as a sufficient argument against the credibility of the apparitions of Kibeho.
Up to today the message of Kibeho is effective and deeply moving. Still, prayer groups spontaneously form and flourish everywhere. The Rosary of Sorrows is widely known and recited by many Christians. Since the end of the war, the perpetual adoration of the Holy Sacrament has become an important part of the exercises of piety at the Shrine of Kibeho.
Despite the general insecurity throughout the country during the years of 1995-1998, groups of pilgrims always managed to go to Kibeho to pray. Today, travelling to Kibeho has become more comfortable, since public transport developed. Still, many groups of pilgrims decide to cover the distance to Kibeho on foot as a sign of mortification. Nevertheless, it's still a long tramp for Kibeho to become a place of pilgrimage comparable to others in the world. The consequences of the civil war and the genocide in 1994 are still noticeable. A scene of a double racist massacre in April 1994 and April 1995, Kibeho is now trying to develop security, accommodation facilities, etc.
In summary,it will be always difficult to assess the spiritual benefits of the apparitions. The impact of such events may not be quantifiable – the consequences are of a more qualitative nature: Internal conversions and spiritual renewal are fruit that reveal themselves more or less at a long term, comparable to the grain, that the soil produces all by itself or the mustard seed that gradually becomes the largest of all garden plants, as Jesus says in his parables of the Kingdom of God (see Mk 4, 26-32).
THE FINAL JUDGMENT ON THE APPARITIONS
Brothers and sisters in Christ,
as we saw earlier, public worship at the place of the apparitions was officially approved by the competent ecclesiastical authority on August 15th, 1988. Thirteen years have passed since then.
As the history of the apparitions throughout the world shows, it may happen that the situation after the approval of such a public worship develops in a way that dissuades the church authorities from keeping moving. This, however, is not the case in Kibeho. There are, indeed, enough elements that enable the authorities to assess the events of the apparitions and finally end the debates by a declaration bearing the final judgment on the investigated issues. The progress of the work of the ad hoc commissions, at work since March 1982, now offers favourable conditions for this step.
2.1. The Diocese of Gikongoro, heritor of the dossier of Kibeho
Up to 1991, Kibeho was part of the Diocese of Butare. Things changed after the canonical erection of the DIOCESE OF GIKONGORO on March 30th, 1992, detaching the territory of Kibeho from the Diocese of Butare. Since then, Kibeho depends on this young diocese entrusted to me as its first bishop.
From the beginning, I took the commitment to continue the examination of the dossier of the apparitions by walking in the footsteps of my predecessor, Mons. Jean Baptiste Gahamanyi and to collaborate with him at every opportunity (see the speech on the occasion of my Episcopal ordination on June 28th, 1992). At the solemnity of the Assumption of Mary on August 15th, 1992, shortly after the feast of my ordination, I went to Kibeho to officiate the liturgy of the day at the Marian Shrine. I took this opportunity to renew my commitment and to precise my approach to the issue of the dossier of the apparitions (see the homily of August 15th, 1992).
On November 28th, 1992, a general meeting of both the medical and the theological commission for the apparitions of Kibeho was held at the residence of the Bishop of Butare, chaired by Mons. J.B. Gahamanyi himself. Of course, I also took part in this assembly in order to discuss the important issue of the dossier of Kibeho after the canonical erection of the Diocese of Gikongoro. An exchange of views allowed us to find ways of continuing.
Thus it was agreed that it would be inadvisable to entrust the dossier of the apparitions of Kibeho to other experts rather than those who started it. The Bishop of Gikongoro was therefore not to create new commissions, but to keep those who were already at work. If necessary, he should only provide additional support for the members of the teams. In accord with this agreement, I restored the existing commissions on January 16th, 1993, reinforced by some new members. Parallel to the work of the commissions, I looked for ways and means to promote the public worship already authorised by my predecessor.
Thus, on the 11th anniversary of the first apparition at Kibeho on November 28th, 1992, I presided over the ceremony of laying the foundation stone of the future chapel of the apparitions on the esplanade of the shrine, together with Mons. J.B. Gahamanyi, Bishop of Butare, Mons. Frédéric Rubwejanga, Bishop of Kibungo and several other priests. As this chapel was named "Chapel of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows”, this name was applied to the entire shrine.
The same day, I publicly announced the creation of a "pastoral committee for the shrine of Kibeho", its structure and its specific tasks. On Decembre 12th, 1992, this committee held its first meeting, which I had the honour to chair.
On May 31st, 1993, the very first official Diocesan pilgrimage to Kibeho was proceeded, led by the Bishop. This pilgrimage was entitled “Pilgrimage of Peace”, referring to the fratricidal war that had started in October 1990. All the priests of the Diocese were present and each parish had managed to send a delegation, according to the distance to Kibeho and means of public transport.
On November 20th, 1993, one year after the laying of the foundation stone, I officiated the blessing and the opening of a provisional Chapel at Kibeho, constructed at the expenses of the diocese in one of the dormitories of the local secondary school.
At that time, I also introduced the master plan of the future Chapel, a project initiated by my predecessor. In a similar way, a topographical surveying of Kibeho was carried out in January 1993. The construction of the actual chapel and the shrine would have probably started soon after, if the country had not experienced the events of the genocide in 1994.
In 1994 and the years after, the peoples of Rwanda experienced a tragedy beyond comparison. Even the visionaries of Kibeho were not spared. Twice, Kibeho was scene of a massive massacre, where helpless civilians where regularly slaughtered just because of their ethnic or political affiliation. This double massacre left deep wounds in the hearts of the survivors, here as well as in other parts of the country. The aftermath of the war and the genocide were long to be seen. Kibeho was littered with a wide field of ruins. Up to now, moral reconstruction and reconciliation within the communities remain pastoral challenges for our Diocese and for the entire Church of Rwanda.
After rather complicated negotiations with the authorities in charge, it was finally possible to proceed to the ritual of purification of the Shrine of Kibeho and to a gradual restart of the pilgrimages from Christmas Eve 1995 on. With the Parish church severely damaged during the tragic events of April 1994, it was the Marian shrine which served as a springboard for the restoration of pastoral activities in the region.
In the context of restarting the activities of the shrine, I found it appropriate to once more lead the faithful on a pilgrimage to Kibeho, on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows on September 15th, 1996. On this occasion I presented my vision of the future of the shrine together with new pastoral guidelines, which marked a fairly significant step in the entire process. It was important for me to explicate, that the apparitions of Kibeho were not yet officially approved and that the examination of the dossier was still in process.
2.2. Proceedings in the work of the commissions
As I said before, after the canonical erection of the Diocese of Gikongoro, it was agreed that both the medical and theological commission, established in 1982 by Mons. Gahamanyi, Bishop of Butare, should continue their work on behalf of the new diocese. There was no need for new commissions to be created.
However, most of the members of these two commissions lived outside the Diocese of Gikongoro. For the convenience of everyone, meetings continued to be held either in the Diocese of Butare or at the Benedictine Monastery of Gihindamuyaga. I took the chair. Mons. J.B. Gahamanyi attended these meetings whenever it was possible for him. In fact, he accepted the invitation very often.
The work to be done remained the same as before the Diocese of Gikongoro was founded. At that stage this meant to gather the elements necessary to make a judgement on the nature of the phenomena of Kibeho from each visionary and to analyse their divine origin. The main concern was to fit the reports of the former and the actual investigations into each other in order to reconstruct the events of the apparitions as they had really happened, beyond public rumours.
These reports were the subject of a critical examination of the theological commission, on average meeting four times per year.
In the meantime, the medical board had virtually already completed its task and handed over its final report in November 1986. During its ordinary meeting on May 18th, 1993, the theological commission decided that the time had come to hand over what they had collected so far as to allow the local ordinary to finally decide on the question of the authenticity of the apparitions. In the following working sessions the commission was concerned mainly with the examination of various documents on this topic. When two members of the theological commission lost their lives during the national crisis of 1994, the greater part of the work had already be done. Since I myself had been a member of the same commission ever since its creation, continually attending the meetings even after my ordination as first bishop of Gikongoro, I am best placed to judge the value of work done.
After the war and the genocide, I personally followed the investigations of what had become of the visionaries since the end of the apparitions. Furthermore, I was able to restore the theological commission, comprising of the old members as well as new ones from various dioceses of the country, selected with the consent of their bishops.
The work of the restored commission practically consisted of completing the dossiers that already existed. Beside this assignment, however, I started to discretely discuss the matter with other authorities of the area.
2.3. The opportunity of making a final judgment
After a long period of observing and carefully analysing the mysterious events of Kibeho we received numerous requests for more information on the establishment of the shrine of Kibeho from all over the country. I weighed the pros and cons and found that the dossier was already mature enough to make the final declaration on the apparitions of Kibeho.
This marked a decisive moment in the history of these events. It meant that the situation, which had remained ambiguous for a long time, should finally be clarified for the faithful and the public. The faithful strongly expressed their need to know what to finally follow, especially because of all the self-appointed visionaries that still continued to spread suspicious and confusing “messages” all over the place even after the fratricidal war and the genocide had barely ended. These circumstances created a climate of confusion in the Church; some communities faced “religious disorder” which meant a serious risk of getting diverted from true Christian piety; sects and new religious movements with Christian background blossomed. All these developments after the war ultimately contributed to more or less deliberately destablilise the Church.
In short, it's high time to separate the good grain from the ryegrass. Indeed, it would be a blessing for the Christians of Rwanda and elsewhere if the "sign" of the apparitions would strengthen and purify their faith; but they would suffer serious harm if this kind of phenomena would be used to ridicule their beliefs.
In the wake of the Great Jubilee of 2000 years of redemption and the centenary of evangelisation in Rwanda, a final statement on the apparitions of Kibeho would meet the expectations of the people of God and give a new impulse for the public worship that had been acknowledged already 13 years ago.
Dear brothers in the priesthood, dear religious, and all you dear faithful laity,
just like the charisms that St. Paul the Apostle tells us to be naturally meant for the common good of the Church, no apparition allows the visionaries to turn away from and disobey the pastors of the Church. Indeed, "... judgment as to their authenticity and proper use belongs to those who are appointed leaders in the Church, to whose special competence it belongs, not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to that which is good.” (Vatican II, L.G. n.12).
The recognition or negation of the authenticity of an apparition does not guarantee infallibility; it is based on proofs of probability more than on apodictic arguments. Therefore, there is no absolute certainty for the witnesses of the apparitions, that they actually took place, except for the visionaries themselves. It is in this context that the judgement on the “Apparitions of Kibeho” that I am now going to make is to be interpreted:
I, Augustin MISAGO, by the will of God and the rule of the Apostolic Seat first bishop of the Diocese of Gikongoro, the place where the events of the "Apparitions of Kibeho" occurred,
having seen the various reports presented by both the medical and theological investigation commission, at work since their creation in 1982;
taking into account the results of my own investigations, patiently conducted, especially since my Episcopal ordination as new local ordinary in June 1992;
always considering the instructions on this topic given by the Holy See;
considering the fact that public worship at the place of the apparitions was formally approved on August 15th, 1988, by my predecessor Mons. Jean Baptiste Gahamanyi, Bishop of the Diocese of Butare, that Kibeho by then belonged to, and that this worship has been continuously exercised during the past thirteen years, despite the difficult conditions resulting from the war and the insecure situation in the country since October 1990;
given the fact, that as far as the visionaries are concerned, no decisive objection has been formulated against the apparitions; the arguments in favour of their supernatural character appear to be very serious and the passing of the years has only made them more incisive;
considering, furthermore, the personal transformation of the three supposed visionaries listed on 28th November 28th, 1983, who were closely examined by the commissions in many different ways;
considering above all the content of what might be called the message of Kibeho, as well as the spiritual fruit that it has borne in the people of God;
asking all those Christians, who have been making legitimate requests for a decision from the ecclesiastical authority for a long time, to understand my delay as a matter of prudence and of insufficient opportunity to consider their claims;
having asked the Holy Spirit to help me, and invoked the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus our Saviour and mother of all faithful;
having consulted the commissions ad hoc and informed the Episcopal Conference,
MAKE the following DECLARATION in my capacity as local ordinary:
1 °. Yes, the Virgin Mary appeared at Kibeho on November 28th, 1981 and in the months that followed. There are more reasons to believe in the apparitions than to deny them. Only the three initial testimonies merit being considered authentic; they were given by Alphonsine MUMUREKE, Nathalie MUKAMAZIMPAKA and Marie Claire MUKANGANGO. The Virgin appeared to them with the name "Nyina wa Jambo", that is "Mother of the Word", which is synonymous to "Umubyeyl W'iamna" that is, "Mother of God", as she herself explained. These three visionaries say to have seen Mother Mary sometimes with joined hands, sometimes with outstretched arms.
2 °. Various reasons justify the choice by Our Lady of these three visionaries already approved as visionaries. These witnesses, historically linked, were the only ones on the scene for some months, at least up to June 1982. They are the ones who made Kibeho known as a place of apparitions and pilgrimage causing crowds of people to flock there.
What is more important is that Alphonsine, Nathalie and Marie Claire corresponded satisfactorily to all the criteria established by the Church in the matter of private apparitions and revelations. In contrast, the evolution of the alleged subsequent visionaries, especially after the apparitions were over, reflects disquieting personal situations, which have reinforced the existing reservations in regard to them and discouraged ecclesiastical authorities from proposing them to the faithful as points of reference.
3 °. In the evaluation of the facts and the messages, only the public apparitions are taken into consideration. Public are those apparitions that take place in the presence of various testimonies, which does not necessarily mean a crowd.
The most active period of these apparitions ended with the year 1983. Everything said or done after that date at Kibeho did not bring anything new with respect to what was already known, from the point of view of the messages and of the signs of credibility. This is also valid for Alphonsine who continued to attract many people up to the end of her apparitions.
4 °. The first two years of the apparitions at Kibeho (1982 and 1983) constitute a decisive period for whoever wishes to know what happened and form an opinion, since the significant events that made people talk about Kibeho and visit the place occurred during that very period of time. It was always in that period that the fundamental elements of the message of Kibeho were communicated and recapitulated and the apparitions of the major part of the first visionaries ended.
5 °. In the case of the three visionaries named above, who are at the origin of the fame of Kibeho, nothing that they said or did during the apparitions is contrary to Christian faith and morals. Their message is in conformity with the Sacred Scripture and the living Tradition of the Church.
6 °. Since the visionaries were not isolated from their surroundings, external influence or manipulation is possible and has to be considered in the context of the apparitions. Although practically inevitable and difficult to discern, interference of this kind seem not to have altered the true message of Kibeho. The mature analysis of the beginning of the apparitions enables us to extract the messages that the Blessed Virgin Mary really communicated, like the message of the chapel, from the plenty of words attributed to her. The latter should help in our search for the way of the truth that God our Creator, “who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1Tim 2,4) uses as “subtext” to carry out his plan of salvation.
7 °. Among the signs for the credibility of the apparitions, the following should be mentioned:
the good mental health, the human balance, the attentiveness and the sincerity of the visionaries certified in the conclusions of the medical commission, comprising the opinion of a psychiatrist;
the respectful and sincere climate in which the events took place;
the absence of sensationalism in the habit of the visionaries, which indicates that the apparitions did not occur neither automatically nor controlled by them;
the conformity of the visionaries' messages and behaviour;
the tangible character of the ecstasies, according to the examinations of the commissions free of mental disorder or hysteria;
the genuineness and simpleness of the dialogues in the apparitions;
the fact that parts of the message were expressed in a more eloquent way than the visionaries would usually be able to due to their culture and religious formation;
the phenomenon of the "mystical journey" first of all for Alphonsine ( on March 20th, 1982) and then for Nathalie (on October 30th, 1982);
the frightening visions of August 15th, 1982, which proved to be prophetic due to the human dramas in Rwanda and throughout the country of the Great Lake region in recent years;
the extraordinary fasting of Nathalie during Lenten season 1983, rigorously monitored by the medical commission, whose members did not consist of (practicing) Catholics only;
the content of the message, remaining consistent, relevant, and orthodox;
the spiritual fruit already borne by these events, all across the country and even abroad;
There was more than one “visionary” after the three now approved, who pretended to see some astrophysical phenomena at Kibeho, trying to impress the crowds of pilgrims, particularly in November 1982, after 5 pm. We cannot attach probative value to that. These were no miracles.
Various credible witnesses gave a natural explanation for these phenomena, which seem to have been well prepared and can be disregarded.
8 °. The message of the Virgin Mary to the visionaries of Kibeho, contains, among other aspects, the wish that we should build a Shrine at Kibeho in her honour and in remembrance of her apparition in that place. This message first received by Alphonsine during the apparition of January 16th,1982, was repeated several times that year. This message was given by the Virgin Mary not on her own initiative, but as a response to a request from the visionaries.
We must recognise that the talk of the visionaries with the Virgin Mary didn't contain the word "basilica" at all. Our Lady rather talked about a chapel (Bikira Mariya ngo arashaka shapeli). The concept of the "Basilica” is a totally strange element in the true message of Kibeho. None of the three approved visionaries has ever used this word. The idea comes instead from a book on the Kibeho apparitions published in February 1983 and distributed free of charge in some places.
9 °. Furthermore, the message concerning the construction of a chapel at the place of the apparitions in Kibeho does not limit the Bishop to certain dimensions, plans, shapes or arrangements of the building. The words attributed to the Virgin Mary rather leave him freedom to act fulfilling the pastoral ministry to his faithful. At last, even if the Virgin Mary had not asked us to build a chapel, this would have imposed itself as soon as public worship would have been established in this place.
10 °. The Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary is part of the relatively old tradition of Marian devotion in the Order of Friar Servants of Mary (Servites). There was a time before the 1960s when this rosary was known even in Rwanda, but only in the circle of the Benebikira Sisters. It was introduced by Mama Tereza Kamugisha, the first Rwandese General Superior of the congregation. Since the end of her mandate, however, this rosary was poorly accepted by the sisters and slid into obscurity. It was the visionary Marie Claire Mukangango who brought it back again as she received the mission to teach the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows by the Blessed Virgin Mary of Kibeho. After an intensive research the ad hoc commissions have still not found any evidence that Marie Claire knew this rosary before the beginning of the apparitions. This rosary deserves to be renewed and spread in the Church. However, this prayer does not replace the Holy Rosary. It is one among many exercises of piety admitted in the Church.
11 °. The public worship in relation to the apparitions of Kibeho, approved on August 15th, 1988 by my predecessor and confirmed by myself as soon as I started my service as the first Bishop of Gikongoro, remains in full force and deserves to be promoted ever more for the spiritual good of the faithful. In prayers of supplication, litanies and hymns, the faithful may add "Our Lady of Kibeho" forevermore to other names under which the Blessed Virgin is invoked.
12 °. In the exercise of this worship, however, it is important to ensure the specificity of the apparitions of Kibeho, without mixing them with other similar phenomena from elsewhere in or outside the country, approved or not approved. I therefore forbid the erection of statues or emblems at the shrine of Kibeho and the publication of any particular formula of prayers, songs or books of devotion, related to the apparitions of Kibeho without the approval of the local ordinary.
13 °. The name given to the Marian shrine of Kibeho is "Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows", as I advocated on the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone on November 28th, 1992 and, with more detailed explanations, in my speech at Kibeho on September 15th, 1996.
14 °. Let Kibeho therefore, without delay, become a place of pilgrimage and prayer and a meeting place for God seekers. A devout place of conversions, of the reparation of the sin of the world, a place of reconciliation. A rallying point for "those who were dispersed" as well as for those who are in love with the values of compassion and fraternity without frontiers. A devout place which reminds us of the Gospel of the Cross.
15 °. To promote the public worship and to facilitate its exercise, a chapel in honour of the Virgin Mary will be built at the place of the apparitions as soon as possible. The dimensions of this edifice have to be carefully considered for the available space is limited by the school building nearby.
For the moment one chapel is enough as the parish church serves an integral part of the Marian shrine.
16 °. A pastoral committee of the Shrine of Kibeho consisting of priests and laity, whose principle has already been established since November 28th, 1992, shall be put in place to assist the rector of the shrine in the good stewardship of his work and the coordination of various fundraising initiatives. The members of this committee must be approved by the local ordinary.
May this declaration contribute to the greater glory of God, here in Kibeho as well as elsewhere in Rwanda and outside its borders. May it support the sincere devotion to Our Lady of Kibeho, Mother of the Word and Our Lady of Sorrows.
I pay tribute to Mons. Jean-Baptiste Gahamanyi, Bishop of Butare, who gave his undivided attention to the evolution of the events of Kibeho, conversing with the supposed visionaries and various witnesses and devotedly supporting the investigation commissions created just in time on his own initiative. He never lost his interest in the work of the commissions even after the canonical erection of the Diocese of Gikongoro and, on my invitation, gave me a hand in the delicate management of the dossier and thus contributed to its successful completion. May the Lord, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary "Nyina wa Jambo", deign him his eternal kingdom.
Furthermore, I would like to express my deep appreciation and gratitude to all the members of both the medical and the theological commission for the apparitions of Kibeho, for the sincerity, generosity and rigour with which they accomplished the tasks the Church entrusted to them.
May the Lord, in his mercy, grant eternal rest to those he already called and bless those always ready to do good.
For my part, I feel boundless gratitude to the Lord who granted me to live to see this historical moment although I have been threatened by death; he allowed me to become a humble instrument in the hands of the Blessed Virgin Mary and proclaim the good news of the authenticity of her apparitions at Kibeho, in the centre of Africa. Omnia propter Evangeiium!
2.5. The Status of the Apparitions in the Church
According to theologians, apparitions and private revelations are exceptional graces; their role in Church life will always be limited. The Church is aware, that the positive revelation that God wanted to communicate to His people for the sake of their salvation were brought to a close with the death of the last apostle, St. John the Evangelist, author of the Book of Revelation. Everything necessary for our salvation is already contained in the Holy Scriptures and in the living tradition of the Church. Even though the most precious visions can raise our passion anew, they don't really provide any new elements of divine life or science.
Strictly speaking, there are therefore no new revelations to wait for; however, this does not mean that God wouldn't continue to personally intervene in the lives of people.
A approved private apparition that strengthens faith and prayer in the life of a faithful certainly is a powerful help to the shepherds of His flock. The message associated with this apparition, however, won't be a new revelation, but rather a reminder of the common teaching of the Church.
In the history of the Church, approved apparitions have often been an alarm signal, an invitation for the whole world to convert. Their role was to awaken the dozing consciences so that they might wait alert for the coming of Christ. They were urgent reminders adapted to the spiritual situation of each time (see Mons. J.B. Gahamanyi, Pastoral Letter on the Events of Kibeho. Butare, July 30th, 1983, p. 8-9.).
In any case, there is no need to exaggerate the importance of a formal approval of the apparitions. An approval like that is not infallible; it is only proposed for all the good reasons there are to approve these apparitions. The Church authorities, however, do not oblige anyone to believe in the apparitions for neither of the decisions made in this field is a dogma of faith.
Therefore, nobody should ever claim the right to impose their own beliefs on others or substitute their own beliefs for the doctrine of the magisterium of the Church; every Christian is to show respect for those who believe in the apparitions.
May the Christians, speaking of the apparitions of Kibeho, “make any effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Eph 4: 3).
Brothers and sisters in Christ,
I could not finish this declaration without giving a few practical tips regarding your behavior in relation to the revelations in Kibeho. These recommendations do not differ from those already formulated by Bishop J. B. Gahamanyi in his pastoral letters. However, it is not superfluous to take up a few of them here, supplementing them with others that I consider necessary.
1. First I will to recall that in the Church of God and in the life of every Christian, the Bible – the Word of God – is and should remain the highest standard of our faith and our human action. I warmly recommend to each person to love the Word of God contained in the Holy Scriptures and to ceaselessly ponder it in order to better live according to it in faithfulness to the teaching of the Church. There we have everything necessary to know and practice to be a good Christian, and in this way merit entry into the heavenly kingdom. Consequently, it is not a good thing for the words of those who consider themselves visionaries, even if they are officially recognised, to be treated equally with the words of the Holy Scriptures.
2. In Christian faith and prayer, one should be watchful in order to ensure priority to Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and men (1 Tim 2:5-6). It is about him that the Holy Scriptures speak: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). No creation can be placed above Jesus Christ – the only Savior of the world.
3. In this context, I find it suitable to strongly emphasize the meaning of the bond that should exist between Marian devotion and an ever greater attachment to Jesus. Mary leads us to Him, for He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” and “No one comes to the Father except through Him” (John 14:6).
4. I encourage pastors and their coworkers in missionary activity to teach the faithful with doubled zeal and proper religious instruction about what constitutes healthy devotion to the Mother of God. May they do this in the light of the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and in the living Tradition of the Church. It is a normal thing to also be inspired by the address from Kibeho conveyed by the officially recognised visionaries.
5. Our Christian life cannot be limited by such practices. It must also manifest itself in deeds expressing our love to our neighbors and in building around ourselves the kingdom of God, “the kingdom of truth and life, the kingdom of light and grace, the kingdom of love, justice, and peace” (preface from the celebration of Christ the King). The one who prays should commit without reluctance in serving his brothers. The life of a Christian should be in accordance with his faith. Nothing would be more in opposition to true Marian devotion than a Christian life that neglects the demands of truth, justice, peace, and love. This is true also for married and family life in accordance with the Gospel.
6. We should be careful not to liken religious practices to rites that border on magic, as though by our words or actions we could force God to fulfill our desires. It is certain that we must pray, ask, and seek, just as our Lord himself directs us (Mt 7:7), but we can never forget that God is completely free in giving his gifts and we cannot impose on Him our desires or, more specifically, our wills. He gives as he pleases and at the moment he considers appropriate. Through this systematization of these notions I want to warn those making pilgrimage to Kibeho against the danger of a certain magical mentality that can get mixed up with good intentions when they come into contact with visionaries or ask for the blessing of water or devotional items.
7. The public worship in the place of the revelations in Kibeho will be approved to uphold Marian devotion, and should carry on with respect for the freedom of the children of God. Yet, in order for it to be useful for everyone and to bear good fruit, it must abide by the norms determined by the Church. It is important to avoid eccentricities so as not to make the impression that our faith lacks stability or seriousness, especially before those trying to discover Mary’s place in the church.
8. In the framework of the permitted public worship in the place of the revelations it is allowable to celebrate the Most Holy Eucharist and other sacraments of the Church: votive masses or prayer vigils in adoration of the Mother of God, praying the rosary, adoration of the figure of the Mother of God in place or in a procession, both groupand individual pilgrimages to Kibeho with the aim of deepening our faith and moving forward in our orders to seek strive for holiness. The point of all these practices is to stand before Mary like children, who expect much from her in order to fulfill the will of God.
9. I ask that the Rosary to the Seven Sorrows of the Mother of God become a part of the practices promoted in the sanctuary in Kibeho and elsewhere. Wherever this rosary is not yet well known, may Christians be taught it in the same way as the Holy Rosary. I ask my friends and benefactors the favor of helping us in seeking ways and means that allow for the acquisition and spread of this rosary at affordable prices to the faithful. It is forbidden to spread and pray other kinds of rosaries without written permission from the bishop of the place.
10. The Stations of the Cross, the adoration of the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the blessing of water by a priest and the subsequent blessing of the gathered faithful with that water are Christian practices that also deserve a place in the prayer programs proposed to the pilgrims in Kibeho.
11. The Feast of the Mother of God of Kibeho is celebrated annually on November 28, the anniversary of the revelations in Kibeho. The separate form of the holy mass, which contains its own prayers and readings, will be prepared and announced at the appropriate time. For the time being, common texts about the Virgin Mary given by the Roman missal can be used. I also ask that the liturgical tribute to Our Lady of Sorrows, which falls on September 15, be enhanced in the dioceses. This process should start with Kibeho since it reminds us of many things in the address from Kibeho. In this way, “Mary, the Mother of Jesus . . . shines like a sign of a certain hope and comfort before the people of God on pilgrimage” (Vaticanum II, L. G. n. 68).
12. The building of the chapel in Kibeho in the place of the revelations in adoration of Mary should be a devotional work of the faithful. The plans for construction and development of the terrain should be approved by me or by my delegate. In the meantime, let us begin to make use of the already existing equipment. Essentially nothing prevents humble beginnings. The material difficulties of receiving pilgrims will be resolved step by step. The spiritual reception of the pilgrims is already ensured by the chaplain’s ministry, which has functioned since 1988.
13 As I have already said in my Address on September 15, 1996 regard the revelations in Kibeho, we must learn to be attached to what is most important in our Christian life. What the Mother of God of Kibeho expects from us first is not to build her a lavish sanctuary of brick or beautifully hewn stone. Rather, she expects spiritual temples to be created in our hearts by cleansing them of all filth and banishing all lust and dishonesty, hate and violence, pride and deceit in its many forms, vengeance, and all murderous ideas. What the Mother of God expects from us immediately is that we zealously accept the address directed to us by the intercession of her visionaries. This address is an urgent call to repentance and conversion, to a changed way of thinking, to a denial of everything that distances us from Christ. The address obligates us to a rediscovery of the Gospel of brotherly love and to giving proof of greater zeal in prayer and obedience to God’s commandments.
14. I find it fitting to recall yet another recommendation that matters to me. It is one that has already been given by my predecessor in his first pastoral letter dated July 30, 1983 regarding the revelations in Kibeho. This recommendation is significant in the present situation. A person who has visions, even if recognised as authentic by the Church authority, still remains a human being like everyone else, along with his or her own temperament, virtues, and flaws. As long as the person remains on this earth, he or she also remains a sinner called to do penance and to realize ever more their own need for sanctification. Thus, it would be reckless to in some way “canonize” the visionaries from Kibeho for their lives. Even more harmful would be to treat them as “chosen ones” or “guarantors of good fortune.”
I ask the living parents or guardians and the friends of the visionaries from Kibeho to behave with proper discretion in relation to them, not showing exaggerated meaning or excessive regard simply based on their being privileged with authentic revelations. They must be allowed to develop normally in their environment and occupy themselves with their normal activities. The precautionary measures I propose here are primarily aimed at guaranteeing the visionaries peace and encouraging them to lead as disciplined lives as possible.
Brothers and sisters in Christ,
This is what I wanted to tell you as an answer to certain essential question still asked about the apparitions of Kibeho. The future of Kibeho should now be clear.
Beware of public rumour proclaiming miracles and from people claiming to be visionaries inspired by God himself. Jesus warned us: "Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them." (Mt 7:20).
In consequence, may no one be counted among those of whom St. Paul the Apostle says: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths” (2 Tim 4:3-4).
I give these recommendations to promote authentic Marian devotion in relation to the revelations in Kibeho and to preserve them from obscurity and distortion. I ask you to faithfully abide by them in the spirit of faith, trust, humility, and obedience, following the Virgin Mary as our example.
In this spirit, I beg the Lord to grant all of you His blessings in abundance.
Gikongoro, June 29, 2001
On the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul the Apostles
On the ninth anniversary of my pastoral work,
Bishop of Gikongoro
[The complete text printed in Kinyarwanda and in French is available at the diocesan offices of Gikongoro.]