Congratulations to the first and only Cardinal from Rwanda Antoine Kambanda
Today at the Kigali Arena, President Kagame joins Catholics from across the country to celebrate the first-ever Rwandan Cardinal, His Eminence Antoine Kambanda.
The Archbishop of Kigali Diocese, Antoine Kambanda’s historic appointment makes him Rwanda’s first-ever cardinal and the first cleric from the East African region to be given the honour by Pope Francis.
He joins a growing list of bishops from Africa and other regions of the world outside Europe and the Americas promoted to the rank in recent years, as the Pope increasingly reaches out to the peripheries of the Church.
Kambanda’s appointment is particularly a growing recognition of the Catholic Church in Rwanda – and the country in general – and, at 62, he will be one of the less than 20 African cardinals with the right to elect the next pope.
This is just more than a personal milestone for the Archbishop of Kigali, as it opens doors for direct communication between the Pope and the Church in Rwanda.
In a way, while the appointment should largely be seen from the ecclesiastical perspective, it is hard to ignore the fact it has come after Kigali and the Holy See took bold steps to improve relations and move away from past difficulties.
While the Catholic Church has for long been an important partner in Rwanda’s development– especially through notable investments in education and health sectors – its role and that of its individual clerics (or lack thereof) in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi drove a wedge between the two sides.
As the titular head of the Catholic Church in Rwanda, Antoine Cardinal Kambanda, therefore, has his work cut out for him, and that is the continued effort to restore the faith that Rwandans lost in the church owing to its failings during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.