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Ginny Kubitz Moyer Answers:
In 1981, at a high school in Kibeho, Rwanda, a teenager named Alphonsine Mumureke had a vision of the Virgin Mary. Mary identified herself to Alphonsine as “the Mother of the Word.” When Alphonsine’s story was mocked by other students, she asked Mary to appear to others, so that they might believe. In January of 1982, Mary appeared to a girl named Anathalie Mukamazimpaka, and, two months later, to Marie-Claire Mukangango, who had previously been one of Alphonsine’s strongest detractors. The three women continued to receive public apparitions, many of which took place before large crowds. Mary’s messages often exhorted people to prayer and conversion. In 1982, the visionaries saw terrifying visions of rivers of blood, burning trees, and severed heads. (These horrifying images seemed to presage the Rwandan genocide; massacres did occur in Kibeho in 1994, some in the very school where the visions occurred.) The apparitions ceased for the most part in 1983, though the last reported apparition to Alphonsine occurred in 1989.
In 1982, the bishop’s office set up two commissions, one of doctors and one of theologians, to investigate the alleged seers. The commissions studied the ongoing apparitions and, nearly twenty years later, in 2001, the bishop pronounced the apparitions worthy of belief. (Though others in the community had reported seeing visions as well, the bishop’s statement said that only the testimonies of the initial three visionaries were worthy of being considered authentic.) The visions of Our Lady of Kibeho are the first apparitions in Africa to receive ecclesiastical approval.