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Antoine Kambanda Appointed Rwanda’s First Cardinal

Archbishop Antoine Kambanda of Kigali, Rwanda has expressed surprise and gratitude after being named Cardinal.

Archbishop Kambanda says the telephone call came as a huge surprise to him and that he only truly believed it when he heard his name read out during Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus.

“I had never dreamed of being a Cardinal”, he told Vatican News’ Jean-Pierre Bodjoko, “it was the Lord who wanted it”.

Archbsishop Kambanda is the first Rwandan Cardinal in the country’s history, being appointed 26 years after the genocide.

The Church will have thirteen new Cardinals. Nine of them are younger than 80 and therefore, have the right to participate in a future conclave. Four others are older than 80 years of age.

Pope Francis’s announcement came as a surprise, after the recitation of the Angelus of Sunday, 25 October.

He communicated the news regarding the creation of the new cardinals to the faithful present in St Peter’s Square as well as to those connected throughout the world.

Archbishop Kambanda says his appointment is a “challenge” for him: on top of the role of evangelisation, he says, “I could also bear witness, to what could be shared with others who also suffer from violent conflicts and the tearing apart of communities. I thank the Lord for this grace that works in His Church, which is currently facing several challenges.”

He added: “We must therefore work hard to transmit and make the message of salvation understood.” His appointment, he concludes, “is all at once a joy, a great responsibility and a challenge.”

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Archbishop Kambanda was born in the Archdiocese of Kigali in 1958 and was ordained a priest in 1990 by Blessed John Paul II on the occasion of his pastoral visit to Rwanda.

All of the members of his family were killed during the war in 1994, except one brother who lives in Italy.

Since his ordination he has served in several academic, pastoral, and administrative roles, including: director of Caritas in the Diocese of Kigali; director of the Diocesan Commission on Justice and Peace; professor of Moral Theology in the Major Seminary of Nyakibanda, Butare; and spiritual director of the Major Seminary of Rutongo, Kigali. Beginning in 2006 he has served as rector of the St. Charles of Nyakibanda Major Seminary in the Diocese of Butare.

He was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Kibungo on 7 May 2013 and was subsequently appointed Archbishop of Kigali on 19 November 2018.

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