"Yes, the Virgin Mary Did Appear in Kibeho"
VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Bishop Augustine Misago of Rwanda is a believer.
"Yes, the Virgin Mary did appear in Kibeho on Nov. 28, 1981, and in the course of the following six months," the bishop said. "There are more reasons to believe this than to deny it."
With the above statement, Bishop Misago of Gikongoro declared credible the affirmations of three Rwandan young women, who claim to have seen the Virgin. The statement appears in the "Declaration on the Definitive Judgment on the Apparitions of Kibeho," published Friday by the Vatican.
Bishop Misago also made a solemn declaration during a concelebrated Mass with all Rwandan bishops and the apostolic nuncio in Kigali.
He could not confirm the veracity of all the people who reported apparitions, however.
The bishop proclaimed solemnly that Our Lady appeared only to Alphonsine Mumureke, Nathalie Mukamazimpaka and Marie Claire Mukangango. At the time, the three were 17, 20 and 21 years old, respectively, and, according to the declaration, "corresponded satisfactorily to all the criteria established by the Church in the matter of private apparitions and revelations."
The document goes on to state that, on "the contrary, 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."
Moreover, the document does not consider the alleged visions of Jesus, reported from 1982.
Instead, devotion to the Virgin's apparitions in Rwanda is encouraged, as it was authorized in 1982 by Bishop Jean Baptiste Gahamanyi, with the dedication of the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Kibeho.
One of the events that influenced the declaration was the anticipated vision of the Rwanda genocide that occurred 13 years later.
The young women said they saw: "A river of blood, people who killed one another, abandoned bodies with no one to bury them, a tree on fire, an open chasm, a monster and decapitated heads."
This awful vision was the only one of its kind. In the rest of the apparitions, Our Lady, who had dark skin, encouraged the young women to pray, fast, and do penance. In some cases, they were seen to dance before the Virgin.
In the first apparition, which took place at 12:35 p.m. on Nov. 28, 1981, in the dining room of the school in Kibeho, directed by a local congregation, Alphonsine Mumureke heard a voice calling her: "My daughter."
Mumureke went to the corridor and saw a very beautiful woman: "She had a seamless white dress and also a white veil on her head. Her hands were clasped together on her breast, and her fingers pointed to the sky."
Mumureke asked her: "Who are you?" The reply was: "Ndi Nyina Wa Jambo," that is, "I am the Mother of the Word." She continued: "I have come to calm you because I have heard your prayers. I would like your friends to have faith, because they do not believe strongly enough."
In January 1982, Nathalie Mukamazimpaka saw the Virgin; these apparitions continued through Dec. 3, 1983.
On March 2, 1982, it was Marie Claire Mukangango's turn. The apparitions lasted six months in her case, until Sept. 15, 1982.
Mumureke's last apparition was on Nov. 28, 1989, exactly seven years after the first.
Meanwhile, in 1982 the bishop appointed a medical commission, and later a theological one, to investigate the reports.
With the passing months, the number of reported visionaries rose to seven. Three other young women and a boy said they received apparitions of Jesus; none of these apparitions have been recognized.
From the beginning in Kibeho, in southern Rwanda, there were conversions, prayer meetings, pilgrimages, healings and abnormal phenomena during those public apparitions.
The ethnic war in the mid-1990s seems to many to have been the realization of the prophecy.
Commenting in the mid-1980s on events in Kibeho, well-known French Mariologist, Father René Laurentin, said that "they are a joyful sign for Africa, for its Church, for Africanization, in the positive sense of the term."
During his 1990 visit to Rwanda, John Paul II exhorted the faithful to turn to the Virgin as a simple and sure guide, and pray for greater commitment against local divisions, both political and ethnic.
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