Kagame made the remarks today as he joined catholic faithfuls from across the country at Kigali Arena, in a thanksgiving ceremony in honour of the first ever Rwandan cardinal, His Eminence Antoine Kambanda.
Antoine Cardinal Kambanda was officially created on 28 November in the Vatican.
Addressing the congregation, President Kagame expressed gratitude to Pope Francis for trusting Cardinal Kambanda to be amongst the Pope’s closest advisors.
Kagame said that the trust is founded on the wise judgement and proven commitment throughout Cardinal Kambanda’s service to the Church in Rwanda who also showed that he is able to contribute to the Church on the global stage.
“Today, all of us Rwandans have great joy because the Catholic Church of Rwanda has a Cardinal. It’s the first time this has happened in the last 120 years,” said Kagame.
“When a Rwandan rises through the ranks because of his or her proven courage and commendable performances, be it in Rwanda or on the international stage, we are all happy. The trust and dignity that the Pope has given you is also ours as Rwandans,” he added.
President Kagame reflected on Rwanda, Vatican relations which is on good progress and thanked Pope Francis who relentlessly proved commitment to boost relations correcting what went wrong over the past.
This is related to the role of Catholic Church in Rwanda during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Considering the involvement of Catholic Church members during the genocide, Pope Francis made a step further and apologized on behalf of the church.
“His Holiness does this not only in Rwanda but also other countries across the world. We cannot forget to thank him for that. We thank you Cardinal Kambanda for the new step, and we hope you will collaborate with others to serve well the church, Rwanda and Rwandans,” he said.
President Kagame highlighted that, in the long and rich history of the country, the Church in Rwanda has been a partner in improving the wellbeing of Rwandans through education, health, and development. He said that partnership should continue and stressed the need to invest more.
“The downs that characterized the history of Rwanda and the Catholic Church which also destabilized the country’s welfare, should not be given priority,” he said.
“I think we pulled a lesson from that and discovered what missed that time. We seek whatever preventing reoccurrence and helping us to make steps forward towards reconstructive journey building partnership, the country and its citizens,” added Kagame.
He expressed optimism that Cardinal Kambanda will root on his own history with many lessons and leverage the dark past to shape the future.
“We are on the path towards achieving great things and collaboration. We have been through the journey for over the past twenty years and beyond seeking to do great things, improve collaboration and rebuild. It should not stop, we should not feel complacent. We should be always committed to do that,” said Kagame.
President Kagame emphasized that the willingness of Pope Francis is promising for collaboration to draw special attention on good deeds and leave behind evils.
Cardinal Kambanda thanked Kagame for joining The Catholic Church and the congratulation message sent to him after appointment.
He also expressed delight for joining Christians after his new special appointment to comfort believers.
“ I am excited to join all of you to thank God and share with you the blessing acquired during my installation as Cardinal. Today, I bring the blessing here in Rwanda,” he said.
The President of Rwanda’s Episcopal Conference, Bishop Philippe Rukamba revealed that they were proud for the milestone and good news for all Rwandans.
“His Eminent Cardinal, your installation as cardinal made us happy. We interacted with different people on televisions, radios and social media channels expressing gratefulness because they showed how a person becomes cardinal,” he noted.
“You are adding up another stage to a long sequence of Christians and clerics Rwanda has ever had. Since the past, we are always aware that God spends the day elsewhere and returns to sleep in Rwanda. Your appointment as cardinal convinced us to understand this enough and helped us to understand the impact of Catholic Church in Rwanda globally,” added Rukamba.
He thanked Cardinal Kambanda for his contribution help Rwandans heal from wounds of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi as the head of Justice and Peace Commission among Rwanda’s Catholic Church Bishops.
“We consider your installation as cardinal as something proving that we are on the right psychiatric journey because it helps a Christian to pardon like Christ and God,” he said.
Bishop Rukamba explained that promoting unity and reconciliation under the championship of President Paul Kagame was the enabler to restore peace among Rwandans.
The Mass was also attended by other bishops from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi , diplomats accredited to Rwanda, representatives of different faith based organizations among others.
Kambanda was born on 10th November 1958 in Kigali. He attended Primary school in Buurndi and Uganda and continued with secondary school studies in Kenya. He graduated in theology at Grand Seminaire Nyakibanda in Butare Diocese.
Kambanda is among priests ordained by Pope Jean Paul II on 8th September 1990 during his visit in Rwanda. The ceremony took place in Mbare, in the current Shyogwe sector in Muhanga district, Southern Province.
He was nominated the Bishop of Kibungo Diocese on 3rd May 2013 by Pope Francis.
Kambanda was later in 2018, appointed the Archibishop of Kigali Diocese prior to his installation as Cardinal in November 2020.