Rwanda's Kibeho Holy Land to Get 10,000-Seater Basilica

13 January 2020

Feasibility studies and design have been completed and if everything goes according to plan, Rwanda's pilgrimage site of Kibeho in Nyaruguru district will have a new basilica that will have a seating capacity of 10,000 people.

Speaking to The New Times on Sunday, Francois Habitegeko, the Mayor of Nyaruguru, he said that they expect the new basilica to have been completed by November 2021, when the holy land marks 40 years.

Habitegeko said that engineers presented the design to the Catholic Church and the district authorities and he highlighted the different features and components of the facility.

"They presented the design and implementation plan to us. There is even a foundation called "Our Lady of Kibeho basilica" that is charge of fundraising financial resources to the fund the implementation," he said.

The construction works for the facility are expected to cost up to $70 million (Rwf64bn), according to the mayor.

The foundation, he said, was established by Christians led by the Lady called Immaculée Ilibagiza.

A survivor of the Genocide against the Tutsi, Iribagiza, who is an author and motivational speaker based in America, regularly brings many Christians from around the world to pray from the Kibeho holy land.

Her first book, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust (2006), is an autobiographical work detailing how she survived during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.

"This foundation in charge of fundraising is composed of different people including Americans," the Mayor said.

The very big basilica could host between 8,000 and 10,000 people and it will have a VIP section too.

"If the plan goes well, it will be completed by November 2021 with capacity of 10,000 seats as well as a very big ground outside," he said adding that the outside area will be enough to accommodate up to 100,000 pilgrims.

He said that the 40 year-anniversary of apparitions of the Virgin Mary in November 2021 could be celebrated in the set up basilica.

"Once completed, it will attract more pilgrims and tourists which is a very big opportunity for businesses and hospitality sector in the district," he said.

The district says that Kibeho receives between 500,000 and 600,000 pilgrims every year.

Four-star hotel

The official said that with pilgrims continuing to increase, more hotels and other accommodation facilities need to be constructed.

"There are no enough and good hotels which prevent tourists coming to Holy land to stay for long," he said revealing that a four-star hotel is also in the offing.

"We have given the plot and construction permit to an investor to build the hotel and we are awaiting the investor to start the construction works," he said.

What is clear is that we need hotels so much to accommodate the increasing number of religious tourists, he said.

Other infrastructure projects underway in this region include road being to the site and the works to upgrade Munini hospital which will be completed soon.

The 66 km Huye-Nyaruguru road is expected to be completed in 30 months at the cost of Rwf70 billion.

"The road, the hospital, the basilica and others are good infrastructure facilities to serve the pilgrims," he said.

About Kibeho

Kibeho of Nyaruguru in Southern Province is an important place for Catholics as it is believed that the Virgin Mary appeared to some teenagers in the remote area in 1981.

Three female teenagers witnessed apparitions in the following years and Mary left a message of repentance and encouraged Rwandans to love each other.

Since then, the place every year receives Catholic believers from across the world including global celebrities and other important personalities.

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