Commemoration Algeria Martyrs
France – Lyon : Celebrating fraternity and peace: Commemoration in Lyon on the 17 September 2016 in memory of the 19 Christian martyrs and of all the victims of terrorism during the sombre years in Algeria.
On the initiative of the postulator for the cause of the beatification of the 19 martyrs of Algeria assassinated between 1994 and 1996, Lyon, the city of the first Christian martyrs of France, offered the setting for a great day in commemoration of the gift of these men and women religious who had chosen, in solidarity and friendship, to remain with the Algerian people who were also martyred during the sombre decade of the nineties.
This Project, enthusiastically received by Cardinal Barbarin who is involved in the Islamic-Christian dialogue at Lyon, was carried out by a team of young volunteers (Christians and Muslims) who worked competently and devotedly for a year to prepare this encounter.
At the Antiquities museum, Mgr Teissier recalled moving testimonies of friendship from Algerians at the time of the assassination of the 19 Servants of God, showing by that the importance of the presence of the Church for this people …
Members of the families of the 19 men and women religious and members of their Congregations then met together with joy and emotion in the crypt of Saint Irenaeus. Over 120 persons had been able to come for that exceptional day of prayer and encounter, which was accompanied by the postulator of the beatification cause, Father Thomas Georgeon, Cardinal Barbarin, Monsignor Desfarges (Bishop of Constantine and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Algiers) and Monsignor Vesco (Bishop of Oran).
In the crypt of Saint Irenaeus
In a meditation on the Cross and martyrdom, Father Georgeon recalled our martyred sisters and brothers in words full of feeling.
The testimonies of Mgr Clavier’s sister and of Madame Bouchikhi whose son, Mohamed, a young Moslem, was killed with his friend Pierre Claverie: their blood that was mingled forever creates bonds of fraternity and friendship.
Then Father Georgeon described the situation concerning the cause for beatification that is under way and told us he had an appointment at the Congregation for the causes of saints (CCS) the following Monday: the diocesan phase is finished and the 7,000 pages gathered have been grouped in a final document “Posito”, (925 pages) deposited at the protocol of the congregation for the causes of saints in Rome (where some 250 causes being dealt with). This text will be examined by theologians before being submitted to the Cardinals.
All, as well as the numerous faithful from the diocese of Lyon, went to the prayer room of the Grand Mosque, accompanied by Monsignor Dubost, Bishop of Évry and a member of the Pontifical Council for inter-religious dialogue. They were welcomed by Kamel Kabtane, rector, and Azzedine Gaci, rector of the Mezquita in Villeurbanne. The prayers of the two communities rose together to implore peace and “living together” with respect of the two religions, in order to ward off hatred, as Mr Kabtane repeated. He also evoked the hundreds of imams and the tens of thousands of Algerians who were assassinated during that period.
In the Great Mosque
Rather than being a commemoration of the past, this time of prayer and Islamic-Christian sharing sought to be an opening on a future marked by peace and fraternity. Monsignor Desfarges concluded with a Christian prayer in Arabic and in French:
“Lord, Clement and Merciful, the Clement One, the Merciful One, we give you thanks, we praise you, because you have created us in your Mercy, because You have loved us and because we love You. We are your creatures, your children.
You have sent us to one another. We are different, but we are brothers and sisters, believing in you, O our God.
You are pardon, you are the One who pardons. Forgive us our faults. Forgive all those who have committed and who commit assassinations and who demonstrate violence, because they do not know what they are doing. Come and touch hearts, so that they may come back to You, that they return to their deep hearts, to their humanity.
Lord, grant that we who are united here may work for peace, that we may work together, with one another, for peace. Lord, fill our hearts with your love and with your mercy. Strengthen our faith and make us witnesses of fraternal encounter and of life together in this divided world.
Bless us Lord, bless our countries, bless our families, bless all those with whom we live and work. Keep us in your Peace.,
You, the Lord of Peace, the God of Peace.”
A solemn mass was then celebrated in the Fourvière Basilica, which was packed and where, there also, Christians and Moslems were side by side. In his homily, Monsignor Desfarges stressed friendship that, beyond the first step of tolerance, should link people with one another: “Friendship is the encounter of two persons in the specificity and mystery of each one. The existence of the other is a joy for me and it nourishes my own existence, and it is reciprocal.”
The Fourvière Basilica
At the end of the celebration, Monsignor Vesco gave a vibrant testimony to Mgr Teissier, pastor of the Church of Algeria until 2008, an eyewitness of the dark years who was, and remains, a father for that Church as well as for the religious women and men who continue to serve in Algeria.
To end with, the gardens of the Archbishop’s house welcomed over 400 Moslem and Christian guests around a couscous to continue weaving the “the bonds of peace”.
That commemoration day, held a few days before the meeting of the representatives of the different religions with Pope Francis in Assisi, was a seed of hope opening the Heavens, prefiguring what will come for good one day and giving faith and courage to cope with the present challenges.
Some members of Sister Paul Hélène’s family and several LSA were able to participate in these meetings: Aliette de St Gilles, Jacqueline Desbiez, Marie-Claude Dallery, Françoise Coste, Marie Madeleine Rollin, Lucie Licheri, Mary Keenan and Geneviève Langlois-Meurinne. The communities of Vaulx-en-Velin and of Lyon-Jules Brunard were also present at one time or another.