Beatifications: reactions of Algeria’s Bishops

Our Church is in joy. Pope Francis has just authorized the signing of the decree of beatification of “Bishop Pierre Claverie and his 18 companions and companions”. Grace is given to us to remember our nineteen brothers and sisters as martyrs, that is to say, (according to the meaning of the word itself), witnesses of the greatest love, that of giving your life for those we love. Given the danger of a death that was omnipresent in the country, they made the choice, at the risk of their lives, to live to the end the bonds of brotherhood and friendship they had woven with their brothers and sisters Algerians for love. The bonds of fraternity and friendship have been stronger than the fear of death.

Our brothers and sisters would not accept us separating them from those in whose midst they gave their lives. They are the witnesses of a fraternity without borders, of a love that makes no difference. That is why their deaths highlight the martyrdom of many of those, Algerians, Muslims, seekers of meaning who, peacemakers, persecuted for justice, men and women in the right heart, remained faithful until death during this dark decade that bloodied Algeria.

So our thought brings together in the same tribute all our Algerian brothers and sisters, they are thousands, who did not fear either risking their life in fidelity to their faith in God, in their country, and in fidelity to their consciousness. Among them we remember the 99 imams who lost their lives for refusing to justify violence. We think of intellectuals, writers, journalists, men of science or art, members of the police, but also thousands of fathers and mothers, humble anonymous, who refused to obey the orders of armed groups . Many children have lost their lives in the same violence.

We can stop at the life of each of our nineteen brothers and sisters. Everyone died because he had chosen, by grace, to remain faithful to those whose neighborhood life, shared services, had made their neighbor. Their death revealed that their lives were at the service of all: the poor, women in difficulty, the disabled, young people, all Muslims. A deadly ideology, disfigurement of Islam, did not support these other differences by nationality, by faith. The most distressed, at the time of their tragic death, were their Muslim friends and neighbors who were ashamed that the name of Islam was used to commit such acts.

But today we are not looking to the past. These beatifications are a light for our present and for the future. They say that hate is not the right answer to hate, that there is no inevitable spiral of violence. They want to be a step towards forgiveness and peace for all humans, from Algeria but beyond the borders of Algeria. They are prophetic words for our world, for all who believe and work to live together. And there are many here in our country and all over the world, of all nationalities and all religions. This is the deep meaning of this decision of Pope Francis. More than ever, our common home, which is our planet, needs the good and beautiful humanity of everyone.

Our brothers and sisters are finally models on the path of ordinary holiness. They are witnesses that a simple life but given to God and to others can lead to the highest of the human vocation. Our brothers and sisters are not heroes. They did not die for an idea or a cause. They were simply members of a small Catholic Church in Algeria which, although mostly made up of foreigners, and often considered herself a foreigner, drew the natural consequences of her choice to be fully of this country. It was clear to each of its members that when you love someone you do not leave them at the time of the test. This is the daily miracle of friendship and fraternity. Many of us have known and lived with them. Today their life belongs to everyone. They now accompany us as pilgrims of friendship and universal brotherhood.

Algiers,  27th January, 2018

+ Paul Desfarges, Archbishop of Algiers
+ Jean-Paul Vesco, Bishop of Oran
+ John MacWilliam, Bishop of Laghouat
+ Jean-Marie Jehl, administrator of Constantine

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