The appointment of Archbishop Antoine Kambanda as a Cardinal will benefit the Rwandan Catholic Church and country, according to observers.
Kambanda is the first-ever cleric from Rwanda to hold the rank.
However, his appointment does not mean that Rwanda has become one of the archdioceses throughout the world whose archbishops are traditionally appointed cardinals.
But his elevation to the rank still comes with significant importance to the local church, Reverend Pascal Tuyisenge, the Rector of Ndera Seminary school, told The New Times.
In an exclusive interview, Tuyisenge said that cardinals are essentially advisors of the Pope and don’t need to go through a third party to meet him, and this makes Kambanda’s appointment so important since he will be a voice for the catholic church in the country, to the Vatican.
“There is something that is significant in his appointment for the local Catholic Church in Rwanda, and in the region because we have got a voice that is going to speak for us to the Pope in Rome, without having to go through someone else,” he said.
In addition, Tuyisenge said that the rank of Cardinal means that Kambanda is now not just responsible for the church in Rwanda but as a cardinal, he will be responsible for the church in the whole world; and just like his counterparts, the Pope can send him anywhere in the world to represent him.
Cardinals below 80 years of age, on a distinct note, are the ones who elect the next Pope if the incumbent one leaves his position.
Tuyisenge also hinted at the appointment of Kambanda as a good signal about the growth of Catholicism in Rwanda.
“The time had reached for our Catholic Church to be seen as people that have grown up, and this move can strengthen us more.”
“Growth is not about quantity, but quality. The Catholics may be few, but strong and are of influence among the people in society,” he added.
Just like it is for many other positions in the Catholic Church, there are no specific criteria followed when Cardinals are being appointed. But it is expected that one of the contributing factors include; having served well in their previous roles.
Who is Kambanda?
Kambanda was born on November 10, 1958 in Nyamata under 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 and attended the Junior Seminary in Rutongo, Kigali (1983-1984) and the Saint Charles Borromeo Major Seminary of Nyakibanda in Huye District from 1984-1990.
On September 8, 1990, Kambanda was ordained in Kigali by the then Pope John Paul II.
On February 10, 2006, he was appointed Rector of 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.
He was installed as the Archbishop of Kigali in January 2019, taking over from Msgr. Thaddée Ntihinyurwa.