11/12/2005, 00.00
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Charles de Foucauld to be beatified tomorrow at St Peter's

The rite will be presided over by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins. Maria Pia Mastena and Maria Crocifissa Curcio will also be beatified.

Rome (AsiaNews) - Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints will preside over the beatification ceremony of three people tomorrow, 13 November, at St Peter's Basilica. The most well-known person is the French monk, Charles de Foucauld.

The other two people to be beatified are Maria Pia Mastena (1858- 1916), founder of the Institute of Sisters of the Holy Countenance and Maria Crocifissa Curcio (1877- 1957), who founded the Congregation of the Carmelite Missionary Sisters of St. Therese of the child Jesus.

Pope Benedict XVI, in line with the trend set for his pontificate, will not preside over the ceremony. All the same, at the end of the service, he will go to the Vatican basilica to venerate the relics of the new blesseds.

The beatification of Charles de Foucauld is an important occasion for Catholics in France, where he was born in 1858, for those in Algeria, where he was killed by bandits in 1916, and for the whole Church, because of his witness to the significance of mission work among Muslims. An orphan from childhood, Charles de Foucauld entered the army and earned the reputation for being a good soldier, however he lived a profligate life.

In 1886, he had a profound religious conversion. After a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he became a Trappist monk to live in solitary prayer and contemplation. He went to a remote Algerian place, lived with Muslims and prayed for them. Charles de Foucauld hoped to see all men as one brother, as a "universal brother". He was also a well versed ethnologist and linguist, and he translated many works of poetry in Tuareg to French and the Bible into the Berber language.

The beatification of Charles de Foucauld was set for 15 May this year, the Sunday of Pentecost, but it was postponed, as were other ceremonies, because of the sickness of Pope John Paul II. It was John Paul II himself who in December 2004 approved the decree recognizing the miracle which led to beatification: the inexplicable healing of an Italian woman from cancer.

The French government will be represented at the ceremony by the Justice Minister, Pascal Clement. There will be more than 200 members of the religious family of de Focauld and a delegation from the French military. A representative of the Council of Islamic Affairs of Algeria is also expected.

Mgr Claude Rault, bishop of Laghouat, the diocese where Fr de Foucauld lived and died, told AsiaNews that "for the Church in Algeria it is somewhat difficult to talk about the beatification of de Foucauld, given his 'colonial' past. Some Algerian newspapers like Al Watan have been critical about his  beatification. It is true de Foucauld lived during the peak of colonization, and perhaps his views are objectionable, which were linked to that era. He was a man of his time. But at this point, the Church has broken free from its post-colonial past and has opened itself to a new, more international era. Thus, even among Algerian intellectuals there are those who have discovered a new side to Charles de Foucauld.

"This beatification is an opportunity to rediscover the true face of this mystical and 'universal brother'. The beatification comes as a seal on our presence in Algeria amid Muslims. His experience is profoundly similar to ours. With the beatification, this experience will be presented to all the universal Church to be shared and sustained".

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