African Prelate among 13 New Cardinals to be Created November 28, First-ever for Rwanda

Archbishop Antoine Kambanda of Kigali Archdiocese among 13 new cardinals named by Pope Francis on Sunday, October 25.
Credit: Public Domain.

Pope Francis on Sunday, October 25, named 13 new cardinals including Archbishop Antoine Kambanda of Rwanda’s Kigali Archdiocese who is expected to become the first-ever Cardinal in the landlocked nation in the Great Rift Valley located at the convergence between African Great Lakes region and East Africa.

In what Vatican News has described “a surprise” announcement, Pope Francis who spoke from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, after leading the Angelus said the 13 will be elevated to the rank of Cardinals at a consistory on November 28, the eve of the First Sunday of Advent.

The only African Cardinal-designate, Archbishop Kambanda who will turn 62 on November 10 is a native of Nyamata in Rwanda’s Archdiocese of Kigali.

The Prelate who studied in Burundi, Uganda and Kenya was ordained a Priest on September 8, 1990 by St. John Paul II at Mbare, Kigali Archdiocese during the Pontiff’s visit to Rwanda.

He was appointed Bishop of Kibungo Diocese in 2013 where he served for five years, until his appointment as Archbishop of Kigali in 2018. His episcopal motto is “Ut vitam habeant’’ (That They May Have Life).

The Cardinal-designate who is currently the Vice President of the Episcopal Conference of Rwanda (CEPR) and doubles as the Chairman of the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace (CEJP) is also the Chairman of the Rwanda Interfaith Council on Health (RICH).

He is known to have embraced Small Christian Communities (SCCs) as a way of being church.

“May all our SCCs celebrate that we have a new cardinal in Africa: Cardinal-elect Antoine Kambanda, the Archbishop of Kigali, Rwanda. He is a big supporter of the SCC Model of Church. He emphasizes SCC Formation and Grassroots Evangelism,” Fr. Joseph Healey, a member of the Maryknoll Society who is an expert on SCCs posted on his Facebook page October 25.

The Nairobi-based Cleric who prefers to be called “Mwanajumuiya Padre Joe” for his passion for Jumuiyas (Swahili for SCCs) added in reference to the Cardinal-elect, “He sent a Rwandese diocesan priest to Tangaza University College in Nairobi, Kenya to study for a Master's degree in Pastoral Theology with specialization in SCCs. Let us pray for and with our new cardinal.”

According to a statement from the Vatican, Cardinal-designate Kambanda is among nine of the new cardinals who are younger than 80 and have the right to participate in a future conclave.

The others  include: Bishop Mario Grech, Secretary-General of the Synod of Bishops; Bishop  Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints; Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington; Archbishop José Advincula of Capiz, Philippines; Archbishop Celestino Aós Braco of Santiago de Chile; Bishop  Cornelius Sim, titular Bishop of  Puzia di Numidia and Vicar Apostolic of Brunei, Kuala Lumpur; Archbishop Augusto Paolo Lojudice of Siena-Colle Val d’Elsa-Montalcino; and Fra Mauro Gambetti, Conventual Franciscan, Custodian of the Sacred Convent of Assisi.

Those above 80 include Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel, Archbishop Emeritus of San Cristóbal de Las Casas (Mexico); former Apostolic Nuncio Silvano Tomasi, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Papal Household; and the Pastor of the Shrine of Divine Love, Father Enrico Feroci.

Cardinal-designate Kambanda is noted for his efforts in reconciliation, peace and justice in Rwanda, which is still recovering from the 1994 genocide.

Speaking at a Conference on Peace and Justice organized by the Catholic Church in Rwanda to mark the 25th anniversary of the genocide, Archbishop Kambanda expressed the commitment of the Church in ensuring that the reconciliation efforts are successful.

“25 years is a short period compared to the weight of what Rwandans experienced, but we shall continue to dedicate ourselves towards achieving the remaining journey and to be a light to others,” the Local Ordinary of Kigali Archdiocese said November 29.

He added, “The reconstruction of unity and reconciliation between Rwandans, with the aim of bringing peace and good coexistence between people, is the main task of the Bishops in Rwanda. And this mission is in line with the social doctrine of the Catholic Church.”

After his official installation as Archbishop of Kigali in 2019, Cardinal-designate Kambanda said that “building strong and harmonious families” will be at the heart of his evangelistic agenda during his tenure at the helm of the Archdiocese.

“My priority will be the family. It all begins in the family and the family today has so many challenges and yet it is the family that prepares us as men and women of tomorrow, the society of tomorrow,” Archbishop Kambanda told The New Times in an interview days after his installation.

He added, “The family is a domestic church and also you can say that it is the heart and the foundation of the society. Good families build a secure and stable country and society and prepare durable peace, so working upon the family we also assure reconciliation and unity in a community.”

“If this spirit of unity and reconciliation begins from the family at home, it gives us assurance that it will last,” the Rwandan Prelate further said.

The Cardinal-designate is also leading a project for the construction of a new Cathedral in Kigali. The former Nyarugenge Prison located in Kigali’s Central Business District is set to accommodate what could be the country’s biggest Catholic cathedral.

“My wish is that we can build a cathedral that is in line with the current Kigali trends,” the Archbishop told the faithful at the launch of the project in January.


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