A Rwandan Christmas

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The Rwandan shrine to our Lady of Kibeho.

Last Christmas Eve I was privileged to be able to visit the Our Lady of Kibeho shrine in Rwanda.

This shrine was given Vatican approval in 2001.

I knew of the shrine after reading Immaculee Ilibagiza’s book, Our Lady of Kibeho – Mary Speaks to the World from the Heart of Africa.

Few Australians seem to know the shrine and very few Australians have visited it.

In 1981-1989, Our Lady appeared to three students aged from 16 to 20 at a senior Catholic boarding school at Kibeho. Their names were Alphonsine Mumureke. Anathalie Mukamazimpaka and Marie Claire Mukangango.

In 1982 there were many public apparitions to these visionaries witnessed by thousands of pilgrims who had made the extremely difficult journey to get to Kibeho. Many walked hundreds of kilometres to be present at these apparitions.

The apparition of 15 August that year was very significant. This apparition lasted more than seven hours and was witnessed by 20,000 pilgrims.

The visionaries were shown visions of the terrible genocide which occurred in 1994 which resulted in the deaths of about a million Rwandans, mainly Tutsis.

When I visited the shrine all the statues of Our Lady were of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows. This rosary was taught to Marie Claire who was requested to teach others to say as well, particularly on Tuesdays and Fridays. This rosary compliments the Sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary which we already say on these days.

The Virgin Mary asked for two chapels to be named Our Lady of Sorrows. The first chapel was small and was originally the dormitory where Our Lady visited the Visionaries in the first part of 1982. The second chapel, which is large can accommodate hundreds of people. Its construction was commenced in 2001 when the Shrine was given Vatican approval as a Marian site.

It was a joyous time to be present at Kibeho.

The two chapels were being prepared for Christmas with Nativity cribs. It was also a quiet time.

I arrived about 11am when most of the pilgrims were yet to come.  I had special one to one time with one of the Administrators of the Shrine.

He showed me the exact location where Our Lady appeared and explained much about the Shrine which is so much more exciting when you are there.

Unfortunately I could not stay for the Vigil Mass which I am sure would have been wonderful.