Rwanda’s tourist development board is launching the country’s first religious tourism product focusing on the Kibeho area in Southern Rwanda where Vatican-sanctioned images of Mary, mother of Christ, are said to have occurred since 1981, according to a report in eTurboNews.
The first apparitions were reported Nov. 28, 1981 from a small village where teens talked of seeing images of Mary. The images, which have been sanctioned by the Catholic church, kept occurring until 1989, the report says.
Visions seen in August, 1982 were credited as a preview of gruesome events of 1994 with testimony of rivers of blood and mutilated bodies, harbingers of things to come, the report said. Bishop Misago of Gikongoro and the Catholic church sanctioned public devotion there in August, 1988 and formally declared the apparitions authentic in June, 2001.
Despite recognition by the Vatican, few outside Rwanda knew of the phenomena, the report says. Word slowly got out and visitors steadily increased on pilgrimages to Kibeho to pray and remember, the report says. Work began in 1992 on the Church of Our Lady of Sorrow, managed by the Order of the Pallotines.
Rwanda’s Tourism and Conservation Department recognized the value of the site and its potential and began marketing the area for tourism.
The formal launch of Rwanda’s first religious tourism route will allow local tour and safari operators to include a visit to Kibeho in their itineraries when taking tourists to see the sights across the Land of a Thousand Hills, according to eTurboNews.
In a declaration, Misago said, “Kibeho become a place of pilgrimage and of encounter for all who seek Christ and who come there 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.”
An unnamed tourism official said in the eTurboNews report that Rwanda’s future lies in diversifying its tourism products and offering a lot more beyond gorillas. Religious tourism opens another niche and allows for greater variety to give extra value for money when tourists come to Rwanda.