The new Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church in Rwanda, Mgr Antoine Kambanda, has said that building strong and harmonious families will be at the heart of his evangelistic agenda during his tenure at the helm of the Church in the country.
Pope Francis appointed Kambanda the Archbishop of Kigali, replacing Thadée Ntihinyurwa.
Ntihinyurwa, 76, who had been appointed Archbishop in the immediate aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, retires effectively.
Kambanda has been the Bishop of Kibungo Diocese.
He was appointed archbishop by the pontiff in a statement dated November 11, 2018.
A priest for 28 years, Kambanda has been serving as bishop for over five years.
"I am humbled for the opportunity to serve and for the trust the Holy Father has put in me," he told The New Times yesterday.
"It is a huge responsibility, that's why I request for prayers from all so my life and service can be in the hands of God."
Asked what his priorities would be during his time as archbishop, Kambanda said he will focus on promoting the gospel that strengthens the family unit since it would result into a society that upholds Christian values.
"My goal is that all may have life in abundance," he said, drawing inspiration from the gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 10.
"That's the main objective of my evangelistic work," he said. "I want evangelism which responds to the various problems that the world faces today."
As archbishop, Kambanda will oversee about 10 dioceses across Rwanda, each with a bishop.
One of them is the Archdiocese of Kigali - in the Rwandan capital - which the archbishop heads himself.
His predecessor, Ntihinyurwa, has been bishop for 36 years.
The new archbishop also emphasised the need for lasting marriages, decrying the growing cases of divorce.
When couples divorce, he said, it's the children that suffer the most.
"Divorce has adverse effects on children because they are the most vulnerable in the family," the new archbishop told this newspaper.
He also said families that are marred by conflict raise troubled youth and this impacts negatively on society at large.
"Evangelism should start at the family level. Family is the foundation of the Church, and that is where evangelism and education should start so that children are nurtured with Christian values," he said.
Strong families, he said, take care of the youth and the nation's future.
He also offered tips on marriage.
"Our youth need to understand that families built on mere sentiment or emotion don't last," he said. "They should build their relationship and union on true love, kindness and generosity."
Kambanda also underlined the importance of tolerance and smooth communication among family members, saying these are key to building healthy families.
"Patience is important in life, that's the beginning of happiness."
The appointment of Kambanda as the new Catholic archbishop leaves two key posts vacant: the position of the bishop of Kibungo, and that of Cyangugu, a role he has also been playing since the death of Bishop Jean Damascène Bimenyimana of Cyangugu earlier this year.
Who is Kambanda?
Kambanda was born on November 10, 1958 in Nyamata Parish in the Archdiocese of Kigali.
Soon after his family moved to Kenya, where he was brought up and attended elementary and high school.
Later, he returned to Rwanda, where he attended the junior Seminary in Rutongo, Kigali (1983-1984) and the Saint Charles Borromeo Major Seminary of Nyakibanda in Butare - current Huye District - from 1984-1990.
On September 8, 1990, Kambanda was ordained as priest of Kigali by the then Pope John Paul II.
On February 10, 2006, he was appointed rector of the Saint Charles Borromeo Major Seminary of Nyakibanda.
Prior to this, he held several other responsibilities, including serving as director of the development committee of the Diocese of Kigali; head of the justice and peace commission at the same diocese, and Professor of Moral Theology as a visiting lecturer at Nyakibanda Major Seminary.