President Evariste Ndayishimiye of Burundi with Pope Francis. President Evariste Ndayishimiye of Burundi with Pope Francis.  (Vatican Media)

Burundi: President Ndayishimiye visits Pope Francis in the Vatican.

Burundi today is a different place. We will not succumb to conflict, which only distracts us from our goal for peace, reconciliation and national unity. Burundians have only one enemy: Poverty. These were the sentiments of the country's President after meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican. He spoke to Vatican News on Saturday.

Stanislas Kambashi, SJ - Vatican City.

Pope Francis received the President of the Republic of Burundi, Évariste Ndayishimiye, in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace on Saturday.

Collaboration between the Church and the Burundian State, social commitment of the Church in Burundi, national reconciliation and reconstruction, and the fight against poverty. These are some of the themes President Ndayishimiye of Burundi discussed with Vatican News soon after visiting Pope Francis on 26 March.

Gratitude to Pope Francis

Later the President met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Holy See's Secretary of State. He also met Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Secretary for Relations with States.

Burundian President exchanges gifts with Pope Francis
Burundian President exchanges gifts with Pope Francis

After meeting with Vatican authorities, President Ndayishimiye gave an exclusive interview to Vatican News. The Burundian President began by expressing his gratitude to Pope Francis, "who is also committed to the efforts that Burundi is making for its development," he observed,

Commendable efforts to reconcile Burundians

President Ndayishimiye told Vatican News that he presented to Pope Francis Burundi's national projects and the country's socio-political situation. The Pope was particularly pleased with the reconciliation efforts underway among the Burundian people.

The Holy Father also appreciated the cordial relations of the churches in Burundi. The President explained that Burundi organises an assembly that brings together all Church representatives of the country twice a year. These spend the week praying and discussing together in a spirit of ecumenical and interreligious fraternity. The Pope encouraged Burundian Churches to stay this unique course of the dialogue.

Pope Francis presenting gifts to President Ndayishimiye
Pope Francis presenting gifts to President Ndayishimiye

The Burundian President also indicated that he counts on the Catholic Church for the reconciliation process currently underway in his country. After long years of conflict, Burundians are now ready and poised for persons who will inspire their march towards reconciliation. "We need the Church to reconcile our people," the President said.

The Catholic Church, very involved in Burundi

In presenting the country's socio-political situation, the President noted that Burundi is a country where most of the population is young. He especially praised good relations and the collaboration between the State and the Church, which supports the country in various developmental efforts such as education, health and other socio-cultural areas.

In Burundi, Mr Ndayishimiye continued, the Catholic Church has taken the lead on many fronts. He narrated how since the early days of the missionaries, Catholics have always worked for the country's development. For example, Caritas Burundi -the humanitarian arm of the Catholic Church, is very involved in various poverty alleviation projects. The President commended Catholic parishes for being involved in the country's development agenda. "As relations are good, I hope that we will continue to develop this sense of partnership with the Church," said the Burundian President.

Pope Francis in discussion withe President Ndayishimiye at the Apostolic Palace.
Pope Francis in discussion withe President Ndayishimiye at the Apostolic Palace.

Overcoming a painful past

Having come from a painful past, Burundi is set and determined to work towards rebuilding itself.

"Burundi is a country with a very painful history, littered with massacres, killings, social conflicts and violence, of which the people truly tired. In 2005, we started our journey towards restoring our society. We did not completely overcome these challenges because post-electoral tensions persisted even after 2005. But, in 2020, the transparent and democratic elections we held indicate our resolve to build a new democratic state. Those elections had no tensions and inspired a huge turnout of voters. Today, everyone says they are tired of the tensions. Everyone feels that it is time to fully rebuild our nation," emphasised President Ndayishimiye.

Burundian delegation with Pope Francis
Burundian delegation with Pope Francis

Ensemble tout est possible- Together, everything is possible

"Burundians are now working hand in hand as expressed in the country's slogan, " Together everything is possible" (Ensemble tout est possible). We have created cooperatives where citizens work together. This also creates great social cohesion. The President said the country will not allow politics to get in the way." He added, "The common enemy we have now is poverty. There is no more time for distraction," Mr Ndayishimiye reassured.

Burundi Carmel Youth Festival
Burundi Carmel Youth Festival

Visitors will find a changed country

The Burundian President concluded with a word of hope to the international community, inviting visitors not to hesitate to visit his country. Burundi today is not the same as it was before, he repeated.

"We are a country that is starting to develop and will no longer be distracted by conflicts. We want to live in peace with our neighbours and all other countries. I invite tourists to come and visit Burundi to see how this country that was in conflict is now a destination country," said the President.

Mr Ndayishimiye closed the interview with Vatican news by appealing to his compatriots to unite as one and conquer poverty.


26 March 2022, 18:23