On Tuesday 28 November 2023, Christians from the parish of St John Bosco in Rango (Butare) made their annual pilgrimage to the Marian shrine of Kibeho. They joined the large crowd of pilgrims who had gathered to celebrate the 42nd anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary as the “Mother of the Word”. The pilgrims came from several countries in Africa, Europe, Asia and America. Many different kinds of vestments and different forms of rosaries could be seen. It was touching to see Christians on their knees for long periods praying in the various chapels around the site.

The Eucharistic celebration was presided over by Cardinal Antoine Kambanda, Archbishop of Kigali and President of the Episcopal Conference of Rwanda, and concelebrated by around 140 priests from various countries; most of them, however, were priests working in Rwanda.

Despite the fact that it was the rainy season, the mass was celebrated outside, as the existing shrine cannot contain the huge crowds of pilgrims. At the start of the Mass, the weather began to threaten. But eventually, towards the end of the mass, the pilgrims noticed that the skies had cleared, the sun began to shine again and the day’s pilgrimage ended in a climate of serenity. The pilgrims were enjoying the fine weather, and some of them kept saying that it was a miracle from the Virgin Mary.

At the end of the Mass, Father François, Rector of the Kibeho Shrine, urged the pilgrims to contribute financially to the project to purchase the land on which the shrine’s activities will be extended. In his turn, the local bishop (diocese of Gikongoro), Monsignor Célestin Hakizimana, thanked the pilgrims and invited them to promote the development of this spiritual place, which attracts pilgrims from all over the world. He asked the country’s bishops and parish priests to continue to raise awareness among Christians so that they participate in the project to purchase the land. It is true that, in the early days after the apparitions, Kibeho was a national place of pilgrimage, but today it has become a place of worldwide pilgrimage. All races meet there to pray and nourish their devotion to the Virgin Mary.

Very happy with their pilgrimage, the faithful of the parish of Saint John Bosco in Rango, on the return journey, kept saying that Kibeho is a place where God and man meet. The Virgin Mary, who knows the misery and sins of our lives and the life of the world, is always present and never ceases to comfort the hearts of her children who put their trust in her.


Father Raphaël Katanga, SDB