The martyrs of Algeria: a testimony of charity, a seed of dialogue with Islam
The first ever beatification ceremony in an Islamic country, in the presence of government representatives, family members of the martyrs, the main imams of the country and representatives of the religious congregations to which the new blessed belonged. The Pope: "this celebration helps to heal the wounds of the past and to create a new dynamic of encounter and coexistence".
Oran (AsiaNews) - "Humble builders of peace and heroic witnesses of Christian charity", "whose courageous testimony is a source of hope for the Algerian Catholic community and a seed of dialogue for the whole of society". This is how Pope Francis defined the 19 martyrs of Algeria yesterday at the Angelus, beatified on 8 December in Oran.
An unprecedented ceremony in a Muslim country, a beatification celebrated in front of over a thousand people (in the photo). All alongside each other: government representatives, family members of the martyrs, the main imams of the country and representatives of the religious congregations to which the new blessed belonged.
The presence of many Muslims in the sanctuary of Notre-Dame of Santa Cruz in Oran, Algeria, underlined Msgr. Desfarges, Archbishop of Algiers, "underlines that it was not Islam that killed but an ideology that disfigures this religion". "The authorities - he added - have understood the truest sense we want to give to this celebration: to bear witness that it is possible to live together, to walk believers alongside believers".
In fact, between 1994 and 1996, during the civil war, 114 imams and members of civil society, were also killed by the Islamists, like Bishop Pietro Claverie and the 18 companions. The ceremony was celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Becciu, Prefect of the Congregation for the causes of saints and papal envoy.
The 19 blessed – 13 men religious, including one bishop, and 6 women religious - were killed between 1991 and 1996. The most atrocious affair is perhaps that of the seven monks of Tibhirine. Kidnapped on the night of March 26, 1996 in their monastery of Notre-Dame de l'Atlas, about sixty kilometers from Algiers, about two months later, on May 25, only their heads were found near Medea. Their story was also told in the film Men of God, in 2010.
The new blessed said Card. Becciu, "have announced the unconditional love of the Lord to the poor and the marginalized". "Even though they were aware of the risk that besieged them, they courageously decided to remain in their place until the end." "We too today - he continued - contemplating these new blesseds, are invited to rejoice and rejoice, because in them we see the mystery of eternal shine. the sanctity of God, one and three, which is re-proposed to us in a new actualization of the Gospel that these martyrs of ours have witnessed to the outpouring of blood ".
During the celebration the Pope's message to the Catholics of Algeria was read, "fraternal encouragement so that" the celebration "can help heal the wounds of the past and create a new dynamic of encounter and coexistence as a result of our blessed". (FP)
This is the message of the Pope, (translation by AsiaNews)
Dear brothers and sisters,
this Saturday, December 8, the Church in Algeria joyfully celebrates the beatification of nineteen religious and martyrs. I join in your thanksgiving for these lives totally given for the love of God, of country and of all its inhabitants, of whom you share daily humility in a spirit of brotherhood, friendship and service. Receive my fraternal encouragement so that this celebration helps to heal the wounds of the past and to create a new dynamic of encounter and coexistence as a result of our blessed.
I am very grateful to the President of the the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika and his collaborators for facilitating the celebration on the Algerian soil of the beatification of Bishop Pierre Claverie and his eighteen companions, martyrs of the greatest love. I also want to express my affection for the Algerian people who have experienced great suffering during the social crisis of which it was a victim in the last years of the last century.
Recalling the death in Algeria of these nineteen Christian victims, the Catholics of Algeria and of the world want to celebrate the fidelity of these martyrs to the project of peace that God inspires in all men. At the same time, they want to understand in their prayers all the sons and daughters of Algeria who, like them, have been victims of the same violence for having lived, with fidelity and respect for the other, their duties as believers and citizens of this blessed land. It is also for them that we address our prayer and express our grateful homage.
The Catholic Church in Algeria knows the legacy, with the whole Algerian nation, of the great message of love proposed by one of the many spiritual teachers of your land, St. Augustine of Hippo. It wants to serve the same message, in these times when all peoples try to advance their aspiration to "live together in peace".
With the beatification of our nineteen brothers and sisters, the Church wants to bear witness to her desire to continue working for dialogue, harmony and friendship. We believe that this unprecedented event in your country will represent a great sign of fraternity in the Algerian sky for the whole world.
We are happy that this celebration can be lived in a sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin Mary, particularly present in our two religious traditions. May the motherly gaze of the Blessed Virgin Mary, full of grace, all beautiful and pure, protect and guard you.