Here is an interview (in French) with Gilles Barrette, Provincial of the Americas, by Jean-Philippe Trottier on “Radio Villa Maria” (Montreal) after the declaration of Pope Francis authorizing the Proclamation as Blessed of the 19 religious martyrs of Algeria.
Interview (in French) with our colleague Bernard Lefèbvre, M.Afr., Provincial assistant of the French sector, on the French Catholic channel KTO. Bernard has been in Algeria for a long time. His interview starts at 14:45 minutes.
Last week, Pope Francis signed a decree approving the beatification of the late Bishop of Oran, Bishop Pierre Claverie, who was assassinated during the dark years of Algerian terrorism from 1990 to 2000 as well as 18 other sisters, priests and brothers.
We are not only speaking of the 7 Trappist monks of Tibhirine but also of the four White Fathers, who are less well known, of Tizi-Ouzou also in Algeria. These confreres had been taken from the first floor of their house on the 27 th December 1994 to be shot in the courtyard.
Born in Ireland in 1964, Father Michael O’Sullivan attended a Trappist Fathers boarding school in Tipperary County and entered the White Fathers in 1983. Attracted by the call to be a missionary in the Arabian-Muslim environment, he did an internship (stage) for two years at Ghardaïa, before continuing his theological studies in Toulouse. Ordained priest in 1991, he spent a year in Adrar before being sent to Rome for studies.
Then he is asked to leave for Sudan where he spends seven years in Khartoum. Knowing the Melchite rite, he spent a sabbatical year in 2001 at the Orthodox monastery of Balamand in Lebanon, where he attended oriental liturgy classes in Arabic. He is also several times a vicar priest in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Yemen.
In 2003 back in Rome, he defended a thesis in Islamology. He is then sent to Jerusalem. During his ten years in the Holy City, he was appointed director of the House of Abraham and representative of Catholic Relief in the Holy Land. Then for four years in Dubai, in the Vicariate of Southern Arabia, he was the diocesan treasurer in this vast diocese. His interests in music led him to sing with choirs in Jerusalem and Dubai. He is happy to serve the Church of Algeria as rector of one of its most beautiful and symbolic places, the Basilica of Our Lady of Africa.
Taken from « Notre-Dame d’Afrique – Lettre aux amis – Février 2018 »
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
The Algerian public had an appointment, on the evening of Thursday, with a directory of Andalusian heritage, revisited and adapted into a very lyrical version, proposed by Farid Khodja and his ensemble of musicians. Organized at Notre-Dame d’Afrique basilica, this recital has presented many music lovers, adaptations and a notable instrumental fusion, in addition to having taken a very lyrical turn carried by the voice of Farid Khodja and the acoustics of the place. Accompanied by a traditional instrumental cell …
Created by the White Fathers in 1926 in Bou Khris (near La Marsa), the Institute of Arabic Letters, IBLA, was born from the desire to know better and promote Tunisian culture in all its aspects. IBLA is interested in human and social sciences in Tunisia and, more broadly, in the Arab world. Its mission is to encourage intellectual openness in Tunisia, while developing intercultural and interreligious dialogue, with the aim of achieving mutual understanding and peace.
The IBLA moved to its present location in 1932, near the medina of Tunis, where it gradually became part of Tunisian society. The training part in classical Arabic language and Islamology was transferred to the Manouba in 1949, then to Rome in 1964 to become the Pontifical Institute for Arabic Studies and Islamology (PISAI). However, the documents remained in Tunis, where for decades it has been used for academic and intellectual purposes by academic and other researchers through a Research Library. In 2010, it had more than 34,000 titles and 600 journals, as well as 130,000 references in its catalog. In the same year, there were 430 registered researchers, mostly Tunisian university graduates in Master and PhD studies, as well as professors. At the same time, the IBLA has developed other activities, including the IBLA Magazine. Founded in 1937, it is interested in human and social sciences in Tunisia and is the oldest of the journals existing to date in Tunisia. Nowadays the IBLA maintains exchanges with about a hundred institutions in the world, which enriches the Research Library. In the 1950s, it also opened its doors to teenagers from the neighborhoods and gradually created a Youth Library. The aim was to support them in their studies, by offering them a warm space and a benevolent accompaniment.
On 5th January 2010, a dramatic fire took the life of the director of the Research Library, Fr. Gian Battista Maffi (PB); it also destroyed half of the documentation and seriously damaged the building. Then a great wave of solidarity was manifested in Tunisia and abroad, both by individuals and institutions, such as the Ministry of Culture of Tunisia, the French Institute in Tunisia, the National Library, the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris and various embassies. In Tunis, the National Library and the National Archives restored about 160 ancient documents. We saw this as a sign of the times, helping us to discern the importance of our action. This has encouraged us to make every effort to revitalize IBLA’s activities and respond in this way to the needs expressed by the environment in which we work. It is thanks to these multiple supports that the IBLA began its restoration and officially reopened the doors of its Research Library in October 2014. Since then, it is the action dedicated to adolescents that is gradually relaunched, through a new Youth Space, which aims at promoting the integral development of their person. As for the IBLA Review, it has continued its activities rigorously, despite the difficult times that the Institute has gone through.
The IBLA is led by White Fathers from different countries who work hand in hand with Tunisians and other people. Because of this, they learn the Tunisian dialect and some of them specialize in Islamology and classical Arabic language. The IBLA is thus a place of meeting, dialogue and exchange, an area of shared respect and knowledge, where everyone, regardless of country, culture or religion, can at the same time be actor and receiver. In this way, it responds to the mission of the Church in the Maghreb, which is committed to contributing to cultural and intellectual life and to the building of society. Through its modest presence and activities, the IBLA contributes to strengthening intellectual, intercultural and inter-religious openness and promoting living together.
At present, the IBLA wants more than ever to be this bridge between cultures and religions, between the knowledge of yesterday’s books, the richness of today’s intellectual world and the energy of the youth that prepares tomorrow. The Research Library is gradually recovering its holdings and currently contains nearly 24,000 titles as well as hundreds of periodicals. More than 500 researchers have registered since its reopening in October 2014. Conferences will soon enrich the activities of the IBLA, which intends to participate actively in the intellectual and cultural life in Tunisia. The Espace Jeunes is being launched. Approximately 80 teenagers have been taking part in English and French school tutoring since 2016. They find in the IBLA a space of calm and confidence to study, socialize and enrich their daily lives. After the renovation of the Espace Jeunes, by the summer of 2017, new activities will also be created: computer and artistic workshops, a new youth library, projections and debates. Beyond the educational dimension, these activities make it possible to forge links with the families of the neighboring districts, most of whom live in poverty and precariousness. It also serves the mission of encounter, dialogue and solidarity with people living in existential peripheries. Finally, the IBLA Magazine, under the leadership of Mr Faouzi Bedoui and his entirely Tunisian editorial committee, celebrated its 80th anniversary with a stand at the Tunis International Book Fair (held from 24th March to 2nd April 2017) and a “round table” organized
on 26th March 2017. Thanks to the voluntary and devoted work of
the committee, the Magazine continues its activities with its spirit of rigor and benevolence, thus promoting the Tunisian and Arab-Muslim culture.
Today, the IBLA team includes the Director, Father Bonaventura Mwenda (WF); the financial manager, Father Ismaël Mendez Almaguer (WF); Father André Ferre (WF); Father Robbin Simbeye (WF); trainees Calvin Akunga (WF) and Simon Ouedraogo (WF); the Director of the Review, Mr. Faouzi Bedoui; the assistant librarian and editorial coordinator of the IBLA Magazine, Nadia Jlassi; assistant librarian, Mrs Asma Dellai; the project editor, Ms. Lucie Jacquet, and the domestic worker, Ms. Arbia Alaoui.
In a post-Revolution Tunisia, the IBLA is trying to adapt and to continue supporting better the evolution of the society, as it has done since 1926. Many challenges remain: to update the documents of the Research Library, to maintain the scientific rigor of the IBLA Review despite the decline of the academic level in Tunisia, to meet the needs of a youth encountering difficulties in finding a place in society, to accompany Tunisians to live their freedom (houriyya ) and their free will (ikhtiyar), to integrate the new technologies into the IBLA’s activities and to cope with the running costs of the Institute. For this, the IBLA relies on its network and develops its relations in the neighborhood and the academic environment, while seeking partners and benefactors at national and international level. In this time of renewal, meetings and dialogues remain the rudder of the IBLA, since it is through this that its action finds its full meaning.
I get angry when confreres seem to insinuate that parish life in predominantly non-Christian countries would be truncated, diminished, or even non-existent. In Ghardaïa, Algeria, we live as the very first parishes of the Acts of the Apostles, or as the “seven ordinary parishes” of the Book of Revelation. Our parish resembles those of the missionaries of Africa of the Maghreb Province and some parishes in Mali and Niger. But why should not the parish of Ghardaïa look like all the other parishes held by communities of missionaries of Africa? Even if there are some differences…
A parish experiences the mystery of Christ in its holy assemblies, especially those of Sundays, in its religious and spiritual life, in the formation and accompaniment of the laity for the mission of the gradual transformation of our world into the Kingdom of Heaven; in short, from the perspective of «Justice and Peace», dialogue and listening to the world in search of the absolute. Formerly we were taught that there is a «holy assembly» since Abel, the righteous: «Ecclesia ab Abele». This means that where there is “wounded innocence” (oppression, slavery, injustice, etc.), the «Church» is already there: the assembly of those who follow the Lamb. A parish like ours has only to join the many «Abels in tears, blood and sweat» to become more and more «Church», with the guests of the public squares and crossroads.
Many of the faithful in our parish live their sacramental and spiritual life within their own religious and missionary community. In our parish, it is the communities of missionaries of Africa and the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa (White Fathers and White Sisters). The Bishop, usually a White Father since Cardinal Lavigerie, joins our Eucharistic communities and participates in community offices. On Friday, holiday in Algeria, we celebrate the Eucharist partially in Arabic. Several Christian migrants, who are free on that day, attend the celebration. Sometimes, we have to find another time of the day to organize a linguistically and sacramentally adapted office for those who come late.
On the one hand, the parish is comprised of a diversity of Christians living in a territory of a dozen square kilometers around the cathedral. These include the Bishop, the white fathers with the stagiaires, sometimes African students of the Algerian universities, the White Sisters and the laity who are often engaged by the French Delegation of Catholic Cooperation and African Christian migrants from the surroundings.
On the other hand, the parish is also constituted of the moving diaspora of Noumérate (25 km), Metlili (35 km), Mansoura (70 km), Zelfana km), Oued Nichou (25 km), Berriane (45 km), Wadi Sudan (55 km), Djelfa (300 km) where we wish to establish the chaplaincy and a place of worship for Christian students; finally, Laghouat (195 km), where there is a pied-à-terre of the diocese and where nothing prevents the holding of Christian offices monthly, cautiously taking into account the clandestinity of African migrants.
The parish is not only a community around a holy water font. It is a community of communities, animated by the desire to slowly but surely transform the life of the non-Christian world around it in a world ruled by the Beatitudes in view of the Kingdom of Heaven, the reign of justice and peace.
The parish of Ghardaïa is taken care of by a number of collaborators of the administration of the diocese (including the Bishop), who invests in all parishes and religious and missionary communities of the great diocese of Southern Algeria, Laghouat-Ghardaïa, often without ordained ministers. One could think that the administrative staff of the diocesan offices are not directly or tangibly concerned with the great mission of the Church to transform this world into the Kingdom of heaven; but what would I do myself in the pastoral work for Christian migrants, the work of raising awareness and empowerment of African migrants without the discrete and unnoticed work of all those collaborators who are close to the Bishop? In fact, they carry the heat and the weight of the day. They are also actively involved in the cultural work, one of the diocesan’s priority options within the framework of the CCDS (Cultural and Documentary Center of Sahara), in school tutoring and even, as part of the coordination of initiatives, to actions in favor of African migrants.
The Ghardaïa parish includes Christian African migrants, individuals and small groups. The number of people who live far from worship places fluctuates. My great regret is that our structures of traditional missionary work prevent us from being fully in the sacramental and spiritual service of these lay missionaries (African migrants on the ground, missionaries in spite of themselves) who are the first evangelizers of the world of migrants and of the workers in the greater part of southern Algeria. The strength of White Father parishes has always been the transformation of the laity into dynamic evangelizing communities: communities that make a difference, wherever they are, and recruit by their attraction.