Reflecting on his new position as Cardinal, the native of Rwanda’s Kigali Archdiocese who turned 62 on November 10 said that much more is, henceforth, expected from him.
“A Cardinal is expected to do more than what he was doing before, because before I was concerned with the evangelization in Rwanda and particularly in my Archdiocese, but now as a Cardinal, the Holy father makes me share the concern of the evangelization in the world,” he said.
Asked about what the role of the Church in Rwanda has been since the 1994 genocide, the new Cardinal acknowledged the collaboration between the Church and the President Paul Kagame-led government.
“The Church in Rwanda has had an important role in the process of reconciliation and the president himself has very much recognized the role of the Church in the process of reconciliation and rebuilding the community of Rwandans after the destruction by the genocide,” Cardinal Kambanda said.
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The Local Ordinary of Kigali Archdiocese added, “The relationship between the Church and the State has very much improved.”
“The suffering we went through made people come closer to God,” the new Cardinal noted and recounted, “One of the things that has touched me is when the survivors narrate their story, they always end up saying, God saved me.”
He went on to say, “In Rwanda and in Africa in general, we have got the challenge of building peace; stable countries that have peace can work for development.”
“When people understand and welcome the love of God, and they feel loved by God, that gives them the possibility to build peace and solidarity and together they can work for development,” he further said.
Last month, President Paul Kagame expressed his appreciation for the “great role” the members of the Catholic Church in Rwanda have played “in building the country after the 1994 Genocide especially in the unity and reconciliation of all Rwandans.”
When he learned of the naming of Archbishop Kambanda as Cardinal, President Kagame described the move as “an honor to you (Kambanda) and to the Catholic Church of Rwanda.”
“Rwanda is proud of the new mission that was given to you by the leader of the Catholic Church worldwide – Pope Francis who elevated you to Cardinal,” President Kagame said in his November 1 letter addressed to the new Cardinal.
On November 28, Pope Francis and the new Cardinals present in Rome paid a courtesy visit to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery following the consistory.
Recounting the encounter with Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Kambanda told EWTN News Nightly, “I was surprised because despite the advanced age he still has a very good memory.”
“When I was presented as the Archbishop of Rwanda, he remembered Rwanda and he told me ‘your people suffered so much’ which shows he has a good memory of Rwanda and what took place in Rwanda and he prays for us because as he says he is no longer having the strength to speak but it is his silence that speaks more than the words,” the new Cardinal recounted.