Kibeho is a small site located in the southern part of Rwanda, in the administrative district of Nyaruguru. It is 36 km from the Bishop of Gikongoro’s residence and 30 km from the Bishop of Butare’s residence. Kibeho is also the name given to one of the parishes of the diocese of Gikongoro, founded in 1934 and dedicated to Mary, Mother of God.
Today, Kibeho is best known as a place of apparitions and pilgrimages. The first apparition of Mary was on November 28, 1981, when Alphonsine Mumureke, a young student of the Kibeho High School, saw a lady of incomparable beauty who presented herself under the name of “Nyina Wa Jambo,” which means “Mother of the Word.” Alphonsine immediately recognized her as the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Our Savior Jesus. The phenomenon occurred subsequently and several times in succession, at long or short intervals. The Virgin asked everybody to convert, to keep faith and to pray without hypocrisy.
The length of the apparitions of Kibeho was remarkably long. A lot of words were said, and a lot of facts, more or less mysterious, were introduced with the passing years. But the phenomenon of the proliferation of the alleged seers in the region of Kibeho and throughout the whole country had a damaging effect for a lot of pilgrims, as well for the people officially in charge, in following closely the evolution of these events. So, on November 28, 1982, one year after the first apparition to Alphonsine, the alleged seers listed in the file of the investigation commissions already numbered 14; and on November 28, 1983, there were 33! Most of them were girls. Some claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary; others, her Son Jesus; and a third group, the Virgin or Jesus, depending on the day. In short, the situation had become very confusing.
In most of the cases, a willingness to believe or an excess “religious” respect towards the alleged seers seems to have contributed to the proliferation of seers. Some of them were even seen circulating in some regions of the country spreading messages without the consent of ecclesiastical authority. Thus they left their own families to go to make themselves guests in some religious households; from there, sometimes they went to Kibeho for designated times for the apparition, or to harass religious and civil authorities, bringing to them the alleged messages, which they claimed were received from heaven. But very often these messages were for many people only repetitions of the disturbing and disconcerting predictions.
There were some of others who claimed to have been charged by Jesus or by the Virgin Mary with a special mission to go and announce their message abroad, especially in the neighboring countries, even in foreign places like Rome, Canada, etc. In this matter, His Eminence Jean Baptiste Gahamanyi, the Bishop of the diocese of Butare in which Kibeho belonged until1992, thought it useful to specify in his pastoral Letter of July 20, 1986 that, “the events of Kibeho were still under scrutiny, and that it was out of the question for him, as ‘Ordinary of the place,’ to give anyone of the visionaries any kind of mission in relation to these events, nor to allow anyone to consider themselves as a guarantor of the messages allegedly coming from heaven, even if certain formulations were good or heart-moving.” The Ordinary of the place targeted the cases of improvised “missionary” seers or itinerant preachers. This position has been affirmed by His Eminence Augustin Misago, Bishop of Gikongoro since 1992, and it remains definitive.
On several occasions, the Ordinary of the place called on the common sense of Christians and on the common sense of the faith to make a good discernment vis-à-vis all kinds of people who appeared or even began circulating almost everywhere pretending to have supernatural visions or to be bearers of particular messages coming from heaven. In the light of certain signs, a number of pilgrims to Kibeho learned to know, in fact, to discern little by little some seers who, in their eyes, deserved to be heard; and many others who rather appeared suspect or even false in various ways.