The Church in Algeria almost disappeared several times: at independence, during nationalizations and during successive attacks. Cardinal Duval and Bishop Teissier’s intuition was to say: “Our premises, instead of remaining empty, let us put them at the service of the people (1). “Our premises must become platforms for service and meetings,” said Pierre Claverie. And as a result, churches, presbyteries and communities became places of life, service and animation. This Church has really set itself up to serve and has established very close friendships with many Algerians.
In the Church, not just anyone is beatified. We observe life but then, “the blood spilled” speeds things up. In the lives of these men and women religious, what is it that makes them beatified? Some have studied theology, Islamology, but all have said the same thing in one sentence: “I freely choose to remain in the country despite the risk, out of fidelity to Christ, to the Gospel and to this Algerian people.” It’s not the fact that they were killed that counts, it’s the very fact that they stayed out of love.
Why did the bishops ask for this beatification? “Because it is an example for today.” Hence the publication of this work by Jean-Jacques Pérennès: “Pierre Claverie, La fécondité d’une vie donnée (2).” Already in bookshops, there are dozens and dozens of books on the shelves, not to mention the written press of all confessions ; the film: “Des Hommes et des Dieux” was watched by millions of people in a secular France; Adrien Candiard’s play : Adrien Candiard’s play: “Pierre et Mohammed”, created at the Avignon Festival, has exceeded 1200 performances. It is played in front of Muslim audiences, which shows that there is an obvious fertility and that friendship is possible. It is a message for our time: listening, meeting without fear of the other.
In Algeria, it is significant that the authorities have accepted that for this beatification, 1200 people would travel. So the Algerian authorities have accepted and this is a strong message. Algeria acknowledges that they died out of friendship for that country. The bishops, in their communiqué announcing the beatification, said: ” As far as we are concerned, we do not want to distinguish our martyrs from the 150,000 Algerian dead, we want to emphasize the friendship which we want to maintain with this country. “It is therefore not a beatification that accuses Muslims, on the contrary. It is to be hoped that it is the same in France and in Europe where we are afraid of migrants. It is an invitation to “not be afraid”, said Saint John Paul II. Let us not be naive, it is not simple, but we must build and dare to meet, which can be very enriching.
For many of us, it is rather amazing to see someone with whom we have thought, worked and washed dishes, walked and participated in retreats, be beatified. Often we bless someone who had founded a movement or congregation in the 19th century. But these are our contemporaries with whom we have lived. The apostles said: “What we have seen and heard, we proclaim to you also, that you too may be in communion with us…” There is a little bit of that for us.
Beatification shows the fruitfulness of these given lives, and this fruitfulness shows the responsibility of the Church of today and tomorrow.
Bernard Lefebvre, M.Afr.
(French Sector – Mini-lien n°481 du 1er février 2019)
(1) Je me suis inspiré de l’interview du 8/12/2018 de Jean-Jacques Pérennès sur KTO.
(2) Jean-Jacques Pérennès, Pierre Claverie, La fécondité d’une vie donnée, Cerf 2018.