The Catholic Church has paid homage to a former Rwandan traditional ruler, Chief Francisco Rwabutogo, who offered land and other forms of support to the Church as it started operations in Rwamagana some 100 years ago.
Rwabutogo’s name featured prominently at the centenary celebrations of Rwamagana Catholic Parish on Saturday, with the clergy praising his active role in the establishment of the parish, also known as Our Lady of Victories.
The parish was first established on February 5, 1919 with Monsignor Jean-Joseph Hirth at the helm of what was then part of the Kivu Apostolic Vicariate.
In 1922, Pope Pius XI divided the vicariate into two; Burundi Apostolic Vicariate and Rwanda Apostolic Vicariate, before the Rwandan vicariate was further split into two vicariates; Kabgayi and Nyundo on February 14, 1952.
As a result, Rwamagana became part of Kabgayi Vicariate before the apostolic vicariates became the dioceses and missions became parishes on November 10, 1959.
Rwamagana Parish, which is today under Kibungo Diocese, was originally in the Buganza administrative territory, where Chief Rwabutogo was one of the most influential rulers.
Rwabutogo is particularly credited with donating his pastureland to missionaries to establish a church in the area. The parish stands at a spot which once served as his cowshed.
He also encouraged his people to transport bricks to the construction site.
First inaugurated in 1933, the parish has recently been renovated with an estimated Rwf72 million, according to the parish officials.
“As a son to Kabare and a relative of King Mutara III Rudahigwa, Rwabutogo was born into a privileged family yet he was a believer and a humble man,” said Mgr Filippo Rukamba, the spokesperson of the Episcopal Council of Rwanda.
Rwabutogo was also praised for his vision and writing skills, as well as commitment to Rwandan values and Christianity.
The Archbishop of Kigali Diocese, Mgr Antoine Kambanda, said: “In 1938, Rwabutogo wrote a book on Christian marriage shedding light on the values of our culture and family, and aligning them with Christian values.”
Kambanda, who also serves as Bishop of Kibungo Diocese, observed that, like Rwabutogo, Pope Francis places emphasis on the importance of building a strong Church on the foundation of a strong family.
“The Church resonates with the beliefs of Rwabutogo,” he said. “We can build the Rwandan family and Christian family at the same time.”
He said the collaboration that existed between the Church and Chief Rwabutogo back in the 20th Century mirrors the kind of partnership that exists between the Church and the Government of Rwanda today.
Mgr Kambanda cited the active support the Church receives from President Paul Kagame, particularly referring to when the Head of State joined the Church in 2009 for Christmas Eucharist.
Both Government and Church leaders praised the existing partnerships between the Church and Government, including in areas of education, health care, social cohesion, and reconciliation, among others.
This partnership will continue, Fred Mufulukye, the Governor of Eastern Province, said at the event.
Odette Rwabutogo, the last born of Chief Rwabutogo, said her father passed away in December 1945 after illness – four months after she was born.
She described her late father as a “people’s and go-to person” who always extended a helping hand to the most vulnerable.
His kindness earned him the moniker Bisangwa mu mahina bya mwezi, which roughly translates to ‘one who is always on hand to help those in need.”
She said that her father bore 18 children but only two – her and her elder sister – are still alive.