Léon Classe was a French Catholic missionary in Rwanda. Born in Nancy, Lorraine, France, he was ordained a priest in the Society of Missionaries of Africa (also known as the White Fathers) in 1900. The same year he was appointed one of the first two missionaries to Rwanda, where he suffered the hostility of the Batutsi king, Musinga. In 1907 he was appointed pro-vicar of Kivu and in 1912 vicar apostolic. In 1922 he was appointed vicar apostolic of Rwanda. After the king decreed freedom of religion, the mission began to flourish. In 1943 Classe baptized King Mutara III, son of Musinga, in the presence of the fifty-two chiefs of Rwanda (all but two of whom were Christians by then). Many of the church buildings needed for the growing number of faithful were designed by Classed. He died in Bujumbura, Burundi.
J. G. Donders, M. Afr.
“S. E. Léon Classe,” Rapports Annuels, Notices Nécrologiques, 1939-1945, Pères Blancs (1946), pp. 28-83; G. D. Kittler, The White Fathers (1957); Antoine van Overschelde, Monseigneur Léon Paul Classe: Premier Vicaire Apostolique du Ruanda (1945).
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.