A History of Kibeho

Our Lady of Kibeho is the name given to Virgin Mary to recognize that She appeared in the village of Kibeho, located in the District of Nyaruguru, Catholic Diocese of Gikongoro, Southern Province of Rwanda.

The Blessed Mother first appeared in Kibeho on November 28, 1981 in a high school of girls in Kibeho to a 17 year old student, Alphonsine Mumureke. Mary identified Herself as the “Mother of the Word”. Alphonsine was heavily persecuted by fellow students saying she was mad. She was not believed by her teachers. She begged The Blessed Mother to appear to other students so they can believe and listen to Her messages. On January 12, 1982 The Blessed Mother answered her prayers by appearing to the second visionary Anathalie Mukamazimpaka and to a third Marie Claire Mukangango on March 2, 1982, three of them were attending the same school.

The apparition events started to be known to the general public. As the place for apparition (school premises, particularly the dormitory) had become inadequate, the authorities asked the visionaries to request the Virgin Mary if She can allow the apparitions to happen at another place. And Mary accepted to meet them on a podium that was built in the open space outside the school dormitory. Later, the Virgin Mary appeared to more visionaries from outside the school, a number of them were girls but also there was one boy known as Segatashya Emmanuel. The apparitions would happen at regular interval, following fixed appointment by the Virgin Mary and attended by larger and larger crowds. Some visionaries saw and communicated with not only the Blessed Mother but also with Our Lord Jesus Christ.

They all described Mary as a young lady, between the age of 18-25, who looked like a beautiful bride. They all said She was of indescribable and incomparable beauty. They could not determine the color of her skin. She wore a seamless white dress and also a white veil on Her head, and sometimes with a blue veil. Her hands were clasped together on her breast and her fingers pointed to the sky but She moved them as a living human being whenever it was necessary.

She talked to them in their native language Kinyarwanda, She smiled and played with them as a loving Mother does with her children. Sometimes She taught them songs and asked them to sing and dance for Her. She gave them many messages for all Her children in the world: Mary emphasized on a sincere prayer, especially the pray the rosary. She related an urgent call to come back to God while there is still time. She emphasized on penance, fasting and doing actions of self mortification to help Her save souls including ours. At times, some dreadful visions were shown to the visionaries which became a key leading to the official acceptance and approval of the apparitions of Kibeho.

For example, these girls reported seeing a gruesome picture: 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 severed heads. The vision is now considered a prophecy of the genocide against Tutsis that would take place in the country 13 years later in 1994. Visionary Marie Claire became one of its victims.

As time went on, the events of Kibeho became popular and brought multitudes from all over Rwanda and also neighboring countries flocking to Kibeho particularly during the apparition days. The Church also did not sit back, but set up expert commissions (medical, theological), to follow up on the event and to make report on the Church Authorities. It is based on these reports that steps toward official authentication of the Kibeho apparitions were decided]. June 29, 2001, the Bishop of the newly created Gikongoro Diocese, HE Augustin Misago, presented his declaration on authenticity of the apparitions of Kibeho and July 2, the Holy See released the same declaration, approving the apparitions. However, declared valid were only the apparitions to three visionaries: Alphonsine Mumureke, Anathalie Mukamazimpaka and Marie Claire Mukangango.

As part of the message of Kibeho is the request of the Mother of the Word to construct for Her two Chapels in the honor of the messages She gave to the world. A big one and a small one. The Blessed Mother gave the measurements of those two Chapels and She even indicated the location where She wanted them to be built. She showed the visionary how they will look like when constructed. [We have sat with the lady visionary a number of times in order to listen to her accounts regarding these two Chapels and to make their design right as Our Lady wants them exactly].

She asked that the big one will be called “Iyegeranya ry’Abatatanye” which means “A Reunion of the Dispersed” and the small one to be called “Chapeli y’Ububabare Burindwi”, which means “Chapel of the Seven Sorrows”.

The bishop of that time of the apparition, HE Gahamanyi Jean Baptiste (1981-1989) sent back a message to Mary through the visionaries saying the Chapels were too big and the church was poor and didn’t have money. The Blessed Mother replied that all She needed from them was their love, and a willing heart to help Her, that She had many children in the world, who will listen to her call to find the required money.

Sufficient time has passed without any significant steps taken toward the implementation of such long envisioned project. As of today, in 2019, 38 years have passed and there still no adequate church in Kibeho to provide to the needs of the faithful community, particularly of the numerous pilgrims that regularly travel to Kibeho to cerebrate the Mother of the Word.

The proposed project consists in the construction of The Blessed Mother’s Chapels, as She requested and where She requested them to be built. We believe She was talking about all of us, Her children, to all who will listen. Like everywhere Our Lady appeared, she asked for a Chapel to be built in Her honor, like Lourdes, Fatima, Mexico City. But those chapels were given the title of “Basilica”. Given the measurement and the look of the chapels as the visionary saw them, we believe one of them will become a “Basilica”, reason why Our Foundation is called “Our Lady of Kibeho Basilica Foundation”. Our Lady never asks for a Basilica. It is a title given to a chapel after.

These chapels are desperately needed in Kibeho to accommodate a growing number of visitors coming to Kibeho from all over the world for worship and communion with Jesus through her beloved Mother. On the Feasts of Mary in Kibeho, it is now a fact to find a crowd of 40 to 60 thousands of people seating in the sun or rain attending a 4 hours Mass.

The construction of the Kibeho Basilica will attract a bigger number of visitors entering Rwanda as pilgrims with Kibeho as destination. It is a blessing that the government of Rwanda is very supportive of Kibeho and provide help and security necessary on big Feasts. The Government understands the needs and relevant conditions for religious tourism and is supporting, for example, the construction of the tarmac road to Kibeho.

The Kibeho Basilica is envisioned to be a modern worship edifice complex, containing principally a 10,000 seat church, with a 1,000 seat Chapel of (Chapel of Seven Sorrows) a parking for 700 buses and 2,000 small cars, and several other service unit spaces.

The construction of such a church complex is planned to take 18 to 24 months (targeted inauguration period: before the end of year 2021) and will cost around 50 Million USD.

The project is being promoted by the Catholic Diocese of Gikongoro, Rwanda, as the project beneficiary in partnership with OUR LADY OF KIBEHO BASILICA FOUNDATION, USA as the promoter.

Moreover, this project is also an important milestone in the development of Kibeho as a Holy City to be erected on the Holy Land that was blessed by the visit of the Mother of the Word. It will ultimately contribute that “Kibeho be a place of pilgrimage and of encounter for all who seek Christ and who come there to pray; a fundamental centre of conversion, of reparation for the sins of the world and of reconciliation; a point of meeting for all who were dispersed, as for those who aspire to the values of compassion and fraternity without borders; a fundamental centre that recalls the Gospel of the Cross”, as per Mother of the Word’s insisting call.

Through this proposal, we call upon to every one touched by Our Lady of Kibeho’s quest to join us as we embark on this noble endeavor.