The death of Frère Jean-Pierre, the last of the Tibhirine monks (VIDEO)
by Anna Pozzi

The last survivor of the 1996 abduction and massacre of Trappist monks died at the age of 97. Humble and discreet, he lived the last years of his life in the monastery in Midelt, Morocco. In a video interview he said: “By staying in Tibhirine we didn't want to be martyrs, but signs of love and hope.”


Milan (AsiaNews) – In December 2018 Frère Jean-Pierre Schumacher travelled to Algeria for the beatification of his brothers and other Christian martyrs, killed by terrorists in the 1990s, the first time he returned to that country, more than 20 years after the abduction and massacre of the seven monks of Tibhirine in 1996. Now he has joined his brothers in the Father's house.

The Trappist monk, who passed away yesterday at the age of 97, was the last survivor of that brutal massacre that left a deep wound not only in the Algerian Church, but also the universal one.

Humble and good, discreet and helpful, Frère Jean-Pierre lived the last years of his life in the Trappist monastery in Midelt, in Morocco, where, after years of silence, the attention of the world put him in the spotlight upon the release of Of Gods and Men.

The extraordinary film by French director Xavier Beauvois rekindled interest in the silent and prayerful presence of the Tibhirine monks, a presence deeply immersed in the social and religious context of the place, until it suffered extreme consequences.

For Frère Jean-Pierre the experience was somewhat cathartic since only then did he begin to talk, in his quiet way, without emphasis or rancour, about the events of those tragic times when the community of Tibhirine had chosen to stay despite terrorist threats and the hostility of the army.

“It was a choice we made together: to remain, despite everything, and continue to be a community of prayer alongside our Muslim neighbours,” he said very naturally.

“We couldn't leave. Our presence in the monastery was a sign of fidelity to the Gospel, to the Church and to the Algerian people. We did not want to be martyrs, but rather signs of love and hope.”

On the night of 26 and 27 March, he was in his room in the porter's lodge, which is why the terrorists did not find him. Another monk, Frère Amedée, was the other survivor because the terrorists had information about the presence of seven Brothers, but at the time, two visitors were present, for a total of nine. The kidnappers, however, left with the first seven they found without looking further.

“I heard noises. I thought the terrorists had come to look for medicines, as they had done on other occasions. I didn't move until someone knocked on my door. I was afraid, but I opened. It was a priest from the Diocese of Oran, member of an Islamic-Christian dialogue group - Ribat el Salaam, the "Bond of Peace" - that was at the monastery at that time. He came to tell me that my Brothers had been kidnapped.”

At that moment, no one imagined that the terrorists would kill the monks. Many thought that they would exchange them for some imprisoned terrorists. Their killing, that of monks and therefore of Christian men of prayer, in the midst of other Muslim men of prayer, also upset many in Algerian society.

Frère Jean-Pierre never stopped asking himself: "If I had noticed that they were being taken away, would I have stayed in my room or would I have followed my brothers?” Now his question is finally answered.

 

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