Beatification of the 19 Martyrs of Algeria

They had given their life to Christ and to the Algerian people, and they remained faithful to that commitment right up to the trial of violence that disfigured Algeria during the dark decade. The whole Catholic Church today recognises the strength of the testimony (“martyr” means “witness”), that of a Christian life lived in the midst of Moslems.

 

Pope Francis has just authorised the signing of the decree for the beatification of Mgr Pierre Claverie and his eighteen companions.  – “A life at the service of all”. Each one died because he/she had chosen, by grace, to remain faithful to those men and women whom the life of the neighbourhood, the services that were shared, had made their neighbour”, wrote the bishops of Algeria in a joint communiqué.  “Their death has revealed that their life was at the service of all: the poor, women in difficulties, the handicapped, the youth, all Moslems. A murderous ideology, a disfiguration of Islam, could not accept these others who were different by nationality, by their faith”. 

Among those martyrs killed between 1993 and 1996 were the seven monks of Tibhirine, abducted and assassinated in the spring of 1996, Mgr Pierre Clavaerie, former bishop of Oran, assassinated in August of the same year, but also a Marist brother, Henri Verges, four White Fathers, assassinated at Tizi Ouzou the day after Christmas in 1994 and six religious sisters of different congregations present in Algeria (Our Lady of Apostles, Missionary Augustinians, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart and Little Sisters of the Assumption)
 
 
“It would be very bad news if this beatification were to appear as an account of Catholics who highlight themselves at the expense of the Algerians, of Moslems, whereas what we want is the exact opposite.” Do not re-open the old wounds. 
 Tirelessly they have recalled to the North of the Mediterranean that “it is not Moslems who have killed the Christians but a whole people that has been caught in the vice of large-scale terrorism”, according to the expression of Mgr Paul Desfarges, Archbishop of Algiers.  And, in the direction of the South, that it is certainly not a question for them, no more than for the Universal Church, to deny the testimony of the 200,000 Algerians, imams, writers, journalists, teachers or doctors, who also have “given their life in fidelity to their faith in God and to their conscience” during the dark decade. And, in particular, 
those “99 imams who lost their life because they refused to justify the violence”. They have repeated, to all, that the newly beatified “are not heroes”, but simply “members of a small Catholic church in Algeria for whom, “when one loves somebody, one does not abandon the person at a time of trial. It is the daily miracle of friendship and of fraternity”.
 
“These beatifications say that hatred is not the right response to hatred, that there is not an inescapable spiral of violence. 
 They are meant to be a step towards pardon and towards peace for all human beings, starting from Algeria but going beyond the borders of Algeria. They are a prophetic word for our world.” 
 
 
(Anne-Bénédicte Hoffner)
 
Brother Henri Vergès-Marist
 
                  
 
 
and Sister Paul-Hélène Saint-Raymond, Little Sister of the Assumption, killed in Algiers on the 8th of May 1994 
 
Born on the 15th of July 1930 in the Western Pyrenees (France) he began his journey towards the Marist life at the age of 12 and made his final vows ten years later. He arrived in Algeria when he was 39 years old, after its independence, first of 
all as head of the Saint-Bonaventure school in Algiers, and then as proffer of mathematics at Sour-El-Ghozlane. His insertion in the Moslem world, his life “in this setting” enabled him to “fulfil himself more completely as a Christian marise”, he wrote. From 1988, he was in charge of the diocesan library, situated in the Casbah, and used by the young people of the district. It was there, in his office, that he was assassinated with Sister Paul-Hélène. 
 
 
The latter, a Parisian, entered the Little Sisters of the Assumption after completing her studies as an engineer. Her first missions took her to the to working-class families in France, and then to Algiers just after Algerian independence. She 
worked as a nurse there, as she did also in Morocco and, more briefly, in Tunisia. In1988 she joined the Belcourt community in Algiers and worked in the library of the Casbah with Brother Henri Vergès. Challenged by the violence that reigned at the time, she wrote: “It is necessary to begin, oneself, by struggling against one’s own violence”. To Mgr Teissier who warned her to take care, she replied: “Father, in any case our lives are already given.” 
 

 

31/01/2018
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