Rwandan President Paul Kagame has warned that he might gather Catholic believers who visit a major pilgrimage site in his nation, accusing them of engaging in “poverty worship.”
Annually, numerous individuals, often journeying for days on foot, visit Kibeho, a southern Rwandan town where it is believed that the Virgin Mary appeared to three schoolgirls four decades ago.
However, Kagame criticized the pilgrims following a Catholic mass that drew over 20,000 attendees in the hillside town on August 15, the feast of the Assumption.
“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 Kagame, himself a Catholic.
The reason behind the strong reaction from Rwanda’s authoritative leader remains unclear, and as of now, the country’s Catholic Church has refrained from issuing any public statements on the matter.
In 2001, the Vatican confirmed the authenticity of the 1981 event, and since then, the location has gained popularity as a sought-after spot for Catholic pilgrims worldwide, with many seeking miracles or healing from illnesses.
Earlier this month, local media disclosed that the Catholic Church is in pursuit of funding amounting to 3.5 billion Rwandan francs (equivalent to approximately $3 million) to undertake an expansion project at Kibeho.
Nearly the entire Rwandan population practices Christianity, and approximately half of the populace identifies as Catholics.