Catholic Church is working on ways to bring back followers who have joined other expanding groups like the Pentecostals (known here as ADEPR), says Monseigneur Hakizimana Celestin, the Bishop of Cyangungu and Gikongoro diocese.
A national census conducted in August 1992 showed that 62.6% of Rwandans were Catholics, from a population of 7.1million. After the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, another census took place in 2012, this time putting Catholics at 44% of the population.
Some of the faithfuls we have, said Monseigneur Hakizimana, are just on paper but we have plans to increase them. He was speaking in interview with local broadcaster TV1.
He said: “We have discussed among Bishops that we must increase from 40% to 60% of the population. Every year we will have to add on new followers to go back to 60%.”
Monseigneur Hakizimana, whose diocese lies in region where some of the most horrific massacres of Tutsis took place in 1994, also admitted that the role of Catholic Church in the genocide has pushed away followers.
He said: “Many of those who were not in Rwanda were convinced that the Catholic Church killed people. However, we cannot exonerate ourselves. We are rectifying what went wrong.”
Over the years, Anglicans, evangelicals and Pentecostals have grown significantly. The Pentecostals for example have a church in nearly all cells of Rwanda, said to be over 2m followers.
The Anglicans, as reported last week by The Chronicles, are also not giving the Vatican breathing space.
It is the Pentecostal Church of Rwanda or ADEPR that is of particular interest to the Catholic Church which remains with older followers as the young flock to the more vibrant churches.
Father Ubald Rugirangoga, a new kind of Catholic priest, attracts thousands-strong crowds. He has resorted to conducting large crusades. The healing sessions, music and dance marking his events are what the Bishops seem to lack.
Monseigneur Hakizimana said he has noticed some summons that are extremely difficult to master in the Catholic Church are very easily adapted in ADEPR.