Rwandan President Paul Kagame is angry at Catholics who he said have been worshipping poverty, threatening to put them in prison.
Mr. Kagame who issued out the threat was speaking to young people at conference on Wednesday.
It follows what he said were reports of some Catholic faithful visiting pilgrimage sites in the country to worship what he perceives as cult-like images.
“I learned that many young people, as many as thousands… wake up in the early morning, walk for three days to go to (a place) where a vision appeared, a pilgrim land, a place associated with poverty,” Kagame told the youth conference.
Visiting religious sites isn’t unusual in Rwanda. Each year thousands of pilgrims visit sites like Kibeho, southern Rwanda to visit the Virgin Mary statue.
It is believed that the virgin Mary appeared to three schoolgirls four decades ago at this site.
President Kagame was believed to be referring to this very pilgrimage, but but a spokeswoman for the government told the AFP, that was not what Kagame was referring to in his speech.
“In his address at the youth event, President Kagame did not at any point mention a specific pilgrimage site, and certainly not Kibeho,” Yolande Makolo said.
She said, “What he [Kagame] was most likely referring to is an informal pilgrimage-type event that takes place in Rutsiro district, and the point was to encourage young Rwandans to be ambitious and work hard, instead of getting caught up in cult-like rituals.”
President Kagame has been very particular about religious excesses with past laws that ban noise making from religious groupings including churches.
“I thought that when you pray, you are praying for what can help improve your lives, praying to get rich and get out of poverty,” he said about why he was angry with what he heard about recent pilgrimages.
“No one must worship poverty. Do not ever do that again… If I ever hear about this again, that people travelled to go and worship poverty, I will bring trucks and round them up and imprison them, and only release them when the poverty mentality has left them,” Kagame, himself a Catholic said.
Rwanda is predominately Christian and Catholics make up roughly half of the population.