Rome (AsiaNews) - A group of Christians and Muslims from Algeria, Morocco and France have planned a pilgrimage in the footsteps of Saint Augustine, their countryman, that will lead them to Milan and Pavia, where the remains of the North African saint of Hippo lie. There are several Muslim converts to Christianity among the group, some for over 40 years, others for just over a year.
It is the first time that Christians of North Africa have ever organized a similar pilgrimage. It will take them from August 26 to 28 to Milan, where Augustine was baptized by Ambrose in 387, to Pavia and the basilica of san Pietro in Ciel d’Oro (see photo), which houses his remains in time to take part in local celebrations, the feast of the saint on August 28.
The group has long desired to make this pilgrimage and had also wanted to include an audience with the pope. Among the pilgrims, 17 are of North African origin, 14 are converts from Islam and two are catechumens. There is also a future seminarian; the other 10 are of French origin, all accompanied by Fr Alexis Doucet, S.J.
To mark the occasion a medal bearing a Berber cross was coined, which will be handed to participants at the end of the pilgrimage.
Among the expressed intentions of the pilgrimage is that "Muslims who have heard the call of the Lord Jesus should not be prohibited from entering the Church." The idea refers to some episodes that have occurred in France and Algeria, where many Muslims who wanted to be baptized, have been impeded by priests and bishops, fearful of the consequences and overly precautious.
The pilgrimage will be preceded by a novena of prayer to God, in the words of St. Augustine, the text of which appears on the site http://www.notredamedekabylie.net/Accueil/Avisetannonces/tabid/66/Default.aspx.
The pilgrimage is organized by the Notre-Dame de Kabylie, Saint-Augustin, Nantes and theMyriam Baouardi et Charles de Foucauld group from Albi / Toulouse.