Our Lady of Kibeho is the name given to Virgin Mary to recognize that She appeared in the village of Kibeho, located in the District of Nyaruguru, Catholic Diocese of Gikongoro, Southern Province of Rwanda.
The Blessed Mother first appeared in Kibeho, Rwanda, on November 28, 1981 in a girls’ high school to a 17 year old student, Alphonsine Mumureke. Mary identified herself as the "Mother of the Word." Alphonsine was heavily persecuted by fellow students saying she was "mad." She was not believed by her teachers. She begged the Blessed Mother to appear to other students so they could believe and listen to the Blessed Mother’s messages. On January 12, 1982, the Blessed Mother answered her prayers by appearing to the second visionary, Anathalie Mukamazimpaka, and then to a third, Marie Claire Mukangango, on March 2, 1982. The three girls were attending the same school.
At this point, the apparition events started to be known to the general public. The place for the apparitions (the school premises; particularly the dormitory) had become inadequate to host the crowds that would gather. The authorities requested the visionaries ask the Virgin Mary if she could allow the apparitions to happen at another location. The Virgin Mary accepted to meet them on a podium that was built in the open space outside of the school dormitory.
Later, the Virgin Mary appeared to more visionaries from outside the school, a number of them were girls but also there was one boy known as Segatashya Emmanuel. The apparitions would happen at regular interval, following fixed appointment by the Virgin Mary and attended by larger and larger crowds. Some visionaries saw and communicated with not only the Blessed Mother but also with Our Lord Jesus Christ.
They all described Mary as a young lady, between the age of 18-25, who looked like a beautiful bride. They all said she was of indescribable and incomparable beauty. They could not determine the color of her skin. She wore a seamless white dress and also a white veil on her head; and sometimes she wore a blue veil. Her hands were clasped together at her breast and her fingers pointed to the sky; but she moved them as a living human being whenever it was necessary.
She talked to them in their native language; Kinyarwanda. She smiled and played with them as a loving Mother does with her children. Sometimes, she taught them songs and asked them to sing and dance for her. She gave them many messages for all her children in the world. Mary emphasized sincere prayer; especially the prayer of the rosary. She related an urgent call to come back to God while there is still time. She emphasized penance, fasting, and doing actions of self-mortification to help her save souls; including ours. At times, some dreadful visions were shown to the visionary which became key in leading to the official acceptance and approval of the apparitions of Kibeho.
For example, these girls reported seeing a gruesome picture: a river of blood, people who killed one another, abandoned bodies with no one to bury them, a tree on fire, an open chasm, a monster, and severed heads. The vision is now considered a prophecy of the genocide against the Tutsis that would take place in the country 13 years later in 1994. Visionary Marie Claire became one of the genocide’s victims.
As time went on, the events in Kibeho became popular and brought multitudes from all over Rwanda and neighboring countries; flocking to Kibeho particularly on the apparition days.
As this interest was growing, the Church officials did not sit back; but set up expert commissions (medial, theological, etc.) to follow up on the events and to report back to the Church authorities. It is based on these reports that steps toward the official authentication of the Kibeho apparitions were decided. On June 29, 2001, the Bishop of the newly created Gikongoro Diocese, Bishop Augustin Misago, presented his declaration on authenticity of the apparitions. However, at that time, only three of the visionaries were declared valid: Alphonsine Mumureke, Anathalie Mukamazimpaka, and Marie Claire Mukangango.
As part of the message of Kibeho, the Mother of the Word requested that two chapels be constructed in honor of the messages she gave the world; a big one and a small one. At the time of the request, the Blessed Mother gave the measurements of those two chapels. She even indicated the location where she wanted them to be built. She showed the visionaries, Anathalie Mukamazimpaka, and Marie Claire Mukangango, what they would look like once they were constructed. (We have sat with the visionary several times, listening to her accounts regarding these two chapels, to create the structures Our Lady has requested.) Our Lady asked that the big one be called "Iyegeranya ry’Abatatanye" which means "A Reunion of the Dispersed” and the small one be called "Chapeli y'Ububabare Burindwi", which means "Chapel of the Seven Sorrows."
The Bishop at the time of the apparition, Bishop Gahamanyi Jean Baptiste (1981-1989), sent back a message to Mary through the visionaries telling the Blessed Mother that the Chapels were too big and that the church was poor and didn’t have the money to build them. The Blessed Mother replied that all she needed from them was their love, and a willing heart to help her. She said that she had many children in the world who will listen to her call to contribute the necessary funds.
As of today (2020), 39 years have passed and there still isn’t an adequate church in Kibeho to provide for the needs of the faithful community; particularly the numerous pilgrims that regularly travel to Kibeho to celebrate the Mother of the Word.
The proposed building project consists of the construction of The Blessed Mother’s two Chapels; as she requested and where she requested them to be built. We believe she was talking about all of us, Her Children, when she said she had many children in the world who will listen to her call. Just as in so many other locations that Our Lady has appeared: Lourdes, Fatima, Mexico City, she has asked for a chapel to be built in her honor. Those chapels were given the title of “Basilica.” Given the measurements and the look of the chapels the Blessed Mother showed the visionary, we believe one of them will become a "Basilica." That is the reason our foundation is called "Our Lady of Kibeho Basilica Foundation." Our Lady never asks for a Basilica. It is a title given to a chapel after it is built.
These chapels are desperately needed in Kibeho to accommodate the growing number of visitors coming to Kibeho from all over the world to worship and communion with Jesus through his beloved Mother. On the Feasts of Mary in Kibeho, you will find a crowd of 40 to 60 thousand people sitting outside in rain or shine to attend a 4 hour Mass.
The construction of the Kibeho Basilica will attract an even bigger number of visitors entering Rwanda as pilgrims with Kibeho as their destination. It is a blessing that the government of Rwanda is very supportive of Kibeho and are already providing the help and security necessary on Our Lady’s big Feast Days. The Rwandan Government understands the need and relevant conditions for religious tourism. At this time, they are supporting the construction of an improved road into Kibeho.
The Kibeho Basilica is envisioned to be a modern worship edifice complex containing, principally, a 6,000 seat church and a 1,000 seat chapel (the Chapel of Seven Sorrows). It will have parking for buses and passenger vehicles.
The construction of the Our Lady of Kibeho Basilica is projected to take 18 to 24 months to build with a targeted inauguration to be before the end of the year 2021. It is projected to cost approximately $50 million USD.
This project is being promoted by the Catholic Diocese of Gikongoro, Rwanda, as the project beneficiary in partnership with OUR LADY OF KIBEHO BASILICA FOUNDATION, USA as the promoter.
Moreover, this project is an important milestone in the development of Kibeho as a Holy City that was blessed by the visits of the Mother of the Word. As per the Mother of the Word’s insistent call, "Kibeho will be a place of pilgrimage and of encounter for all who seek Christ and who come here to pray; a fundamental center 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."
Through this proposal, we call upon everyone touched by Our Lady of Kibeho’s request to join us as we embark on this noble endeavor.