JUDGEMENT ON THE APPARITIONS OF KIBEHO
On Monday July 2, the Holy See released the declaration of Bishop Augustin Misago of Gikongoro, on the apparitions that took place in
1982-83 in Kibeho, Rwanda. The text we offer is a translated summary from the original twenty-three-page French report on the apparitions of Our Lady in Kibeho and on
the work of the two commissions (medical and theological) that studied them for the past twenty years. —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
—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
I. Explanation of the facts
The first part (pp. 1-10) consists in a brief exposition of the facts, in which the bishop primarily establishes some historical reference points, then he presents the elements of the message and finally he shows how the apparitions of Kibeho have born fruit, good fruit, in spite of the difficult moments that Rwanda and the other countries of the Great Lakes region have lived in the last ten years.
II. Studies and conclusions
We mention here some statements that govern the rest of the document. The Bishop declared as follows:
The three initial authentic testimonies of the apparitions at Kibeho
1. Yes, the Virgin Mary appeared at Kibeho on November 28, 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 by 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.
2. Various reasons justify the choice by Our Lady of these three visionaries already recognized 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.
First two years of apparitions at Kibeho
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. In fact it was during these two years that significant events were produced. These made Kibeho known and caused crowds to flock there. 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.
The alleged apparitions of Jesus reported at Kibeho beginning in July 1982 are not taken into consideration in this Declaration for various reasons, primarily because the alleged visionaries of Jesus, known to the pilgrims of Kibeho, developed disquieting personal situations. Regarding instead the first visionaries of the Virgin Mary, "no decisive objection has been formulated against the apparitions; the arguments in favor of their supernatural character appear to be very serious and the passing of the years has only made them more incisive."
Usefulness of apparitions for applying Gospel to current events
"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." In the sphere of the apparitions there is then no absolute certainty for the witnesses, except perhaps for the visionary. The definitive judgment about the apparitions of Kibeho should be interpreted in this spirit. The recognition of these apparitions should not be considered a requirement of faith. Therefore each Christian is free to believe or not.
"A recognized apparition, that strengthens the life of faith and prayer, is certainly a powerful help for shepherds of souls, but the message linked to this apparition is not a new revelation; it is rather a way of recalling the ordinary teaching of the Church, which has been forgotten."
III. Pastoral directives: Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows and public devotion
The third part of the Declaration (pp. 20-23) contains a group of pastoral directives that indicate to the faithful the line of conduct to follow in this context, in particular for all that regards the exercise of public Marian devotion linked to the apparitions of Kibeho already officially recognized. These practical instructions repeat in part what Bishop Jean Baptiste Gahamanyi had formulated in his three known Pastoral Letters on the events of Kibeho. The Bishop of Gikongoro completes them adding others, judged opportune in the present circumstances.
The name given to the Marian sanctuary at Kibeho is "Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrow," as the Bishop had anticipated when the first stone was laid, November 28, 1992, and repeated in his message of September 15, 1996, with fuller explanations.
"That Kibeho become 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 center that recalls the Gospel of the Cross." (from the Declaration)
The Declaration, formulating a definitive judgment on the apparitions of Kibeho, permits the clarification of a situation which was ambiguous for many faithful for a long time, and for public opinion, not only at Kibeho but in the whole country. "In the great number of celebrations for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 of the Redemption and of the Centenary of evangelization in Rwanda, this Declaration makes it possible to respond to the expectations of the People of God and to bring new enthusiasm to the public devotion recognized already for thirteen years."
The complete text printed in Kinyarwanda and in French is available at the diocesan offices of Gikongoro.
Gikongoro, June 29, 2001
Rev. Ignace Mboneyabo
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