Thousands of followers gathered at Roman Catholic churches in the City of Kigali yesterday for prayers to celebrate Assumption Day, the day of observance of ascension to heaven of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.
Father Ildephonse Uwimana, who was the main celebrant during the morning mass at St. Famille Church in downtown Kigali, prayed for the restoration of peace in the war-torn parts of the world.
Several believers who congregated at the parish testified how the special prayer on Assumption Day help them feel at peace.
Jean Baptiste Rucamumihigo, 70, said the ascension to heaven of the Virgin Mary signifies her faithfulness to God, an example that should be emulated by other believers.
He said he hopes to join the Virgin Mary in Heaven, a goal he said motivates him to seek to live a righteous life.
“Christianity calls for faithfulness. I believe Mary went to heaven and we need to pray in order to join her there,” Rucamumihigo said.
Another believer, Bernadette Uwizeyimana, 61, described Assumption Day as an anniversary for the ascendence to heaven of Jesus’ mother, and a sign that believers need to be unified by the fact that the Virgin Mary went to Heaven.
“Mary is the mother of all God’s children and it is this feeling of brotherhood that should help build unity in the world,” said Uwizeyimana.
Rwanda is predominantly a catholic nation.
“The church remains the same, some people leave while others join,” he said.
Meanwhile, at St Michel Cathedral, believers were urged to respect their bodies, and put them to good use.
Celestin Nizeyimana, the parish priest at the Cathedral, said as they mark the day on which the Virgin Mary ended her earthly life and ascended to heaven, believers should know that their bodies are temples of God and that they will at some point be taken to heaven.
“On this day, we have to celebrate the fact that God gave us body and soul. Our bodies are anointed with the Holy Spirit, and so we should use them accordingly,” Nizeyimana said.
Innocent Karemera, a Christian who had come to attend mass at the cathedral, told The New Times that on this day, he takes time to pray for healing, and peace.
“This is a very important day for all believers. We come here to pray for health, comfort and redemption of God’s people all over the world. It is a day on which we pray for peace in the world,” Karemera said.
Meanwhile, Fr. Laurent Rutinduka of Regina Pacis Parish, Remera, asked the congregation to emulate the humility exhibited by the Virgin Mary.
“She did not only respect God’s command of taking on Joseph as a husband, but also diligently bred and cared for Jesus Christ, our saviour,” he said.
Rutinduka called on the congregation to embrace christian virtues of love, forgiveness and to reach out to the poor, just like the Virgin Mary’s act during a wedding in Cana.
“Her life also teaches us about sacrifice and perseverance, for instance, she stood by her son (Jesus) to the very end,” Rutinduka said.
He also called upon christians to emulate the life of Cyprian Rugamba, a prominent catholic musician, who was killed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Additional reporting by Ivan Ngoboka & Athan Tashobya