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Rwandan President Paul Kagame (OSV News photo/Jean Bizimana, Reuters)

Days after Rwandan President Paul Kagame warned Catholic pilgrims who “worship poverty” that he would round them up and jail them, clergy in the East Africa nation remained tight-lipped, even as the warning reverberated across the region. Source: OSV News.

The clergy, who did not want to be named, said they could not speak on the matter or were “yet to understand” the context of Mr Kagame’s threat or that there was really “not much” in it that should worry the Church.

“The Church doesn’t think it should be so concerned about this. It chooses to remain quiet,” one of the Catholic priests said in a telephone interview.

On August 23, in the capital city of Kigali, Mr Kagame told 2000 youth at a gathering that he “learned that many young people, as many as thousands … wake up in the early morning, walk for three days to go to (a place) where a vision appeared, a pilgrim land, a place associated with poverty.”

“I thought that when you pray, you are praying for what can help improve your lives, praying to get rich and get out of poverty,” he said.

“No one must worship poverty. Do not ever do that again. … If I ever hear about this again, that people travelled to go and worship poverty, I will bring trucks and round them up and imprison them, and only release them when the poverty mentality has left them,” said Mr Kagame, who is himself a Catholic.

The comments drew reactions in social media, as they shocked Catholics across eastern Africa.

In a clarification of Mr Kagame’s remarks to youth, the President’s spokeswoman said Mr Kagame did not reference a specific pilgrimage site. 

But in Rwanda, the local media has interpreted Mr Kagame’s reference as pointing to an annual pilgrimage undertaken by thousands of youth to Our Lady of Kibeho shrine, where several Marian apparitions occurred in the 1980s. The Vatican declared the testimonies of three witnesses authentic in 2001.


Rwanda president’s threat to ‘arrest’ Catholic pilgrims stirs reaction (By Frederick Nzwili, OSV News)