Praying for Peace in Burundi
More than 5,000 pilgrims at the Shrine of Mont Sion Gikungu on August 15
BURUNDI, Fr.Otmar Landolt. The "Big Pilgrimage" of August 15, 2002, feast of the Assumption of Mary to heaven, focused on Mary as sign of hope and Queen of Peace. More than 5,000 pilgrims came to the Shrine of Mount Sion Gikungu, walking or by car, to honor the Blessed Mother on her feast day and especially to ask the Queen of Peace to united the hearts of the Barundis and give peace to the tribes at war. At the same time, peace talks were taking place in Dar-es-Salam once again to negotiate a cease-fire. Approximately 500 apostles of the Pilgrim Mother on this day renewed their missionary commitment, making the Pilgrim Mother present at every moment.
Burundi still did not find peace; the annual National Pilgrimage to Maugera was cancelled due to the continued fighting. The faithful celebrated the feast of the Assumption of Mary in the parishes, and many made a pilgrimage to Mont Sion Gikungu.
Already on the Eve of August 15, many pilgrims arrived by the Shrine, coming from the neighboring diocese of Bubanza and from Congo. Early the other morning they went to the shrine, praying and singing. Before the Holy Mass began at 9.30 AM many went to the sacrament of reconciliation, while meditations and singing bridged the time for those who had come early.
People of God, united in Mary
Diocesan Bishop Evarist Ngoyagoye led the celebration in the new Pilgrims' Church; twelve priests concelebrated with him. The bishop welcomed the pilgrims as people of God, united in Mary, the sign of hope, leading homeward to the Eternal Home. The design and atmosphere of new pilgrim church actually brings about a feeling of togetherness, the sensation of being the united people of God.
In his sermon, Bishop Evariste spoke about the Assumption of Mary to Heaven as source of hope for our earthly pilgrimage. In a special way, he said, the Queen of Peace will bring peace to the Barundi. It is the Mother who unites a family; as Mother of Burundi, Mary will unite and heal.
Apostels of the Pilgrim Mother Renewing their commitment
Many prominent persons participated, like the former President of Burundi, Silvester Nrtibantunganya, the wife of the vice-president and the Secretary of Education.
However, most of all the 500 Apostles of the Pilgrim Mother dominated the scene. Many of them had brought the Pilgrim Mother along, the picture decorated with flowers and colored ribbons. They renewed their commitment to bring the Pilgrim Mother to the families, consecrating themselves as her instruments and apostles. The Pilgrim Mother is also visiting families in the neighboring country Congo, being in a state of civil war like Burundi, with thousands fugitives and hopeless despair of many. Two new Pilgrim Mother were sent out to Congo on this day.
Procession to the Shrine Praying for Peace
The three-hour long Mass ended with a procession to the Shrine. Three church choirs, and girls performing religious dances, provided a deep religious atmosphere.
Immediately after the final blessing, when the Apostles of the Pilgrim Mother had renewed their commitment and all, together with the bishop, dedicated themselves to the Blessed Mother, a "sign" appeared in the bright blue skies: a military plane showed up over lake Tanganyika, took course to the Shrine and then flew over the pilgrims, turning north. It carried bombs. "When the plane was over us, I prayed that the deadly cargo just would not reach its destination in the near hills," Father Otmar said. "And in this moment I realized that Mont Sion Gikungu has an important mission for peace in Burundi, for peace in Africa. May Mary, the radiant sign in heavens, soon bring us peace!"
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