Algeria prepares for beatification of 19 martyrs
By Joachim Teigen
The cause for their beatification opened in 2007, thus titling Pierre Claverie and Companions as Servants of God. Earlier this year Pope Francis confirmed their beatification.
On December 8th the ceremony of beatification will take place in the cathedral of the Diocese of Oran, of which the martyred Pierre Claverie was bishop. Cardinal Angelo Becciu, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, will preside the beatification Mass as well as represent the Holy Father on the occasion.
Algeria’s “dark decade”
Between 1991 and 2002, Algeria was thrust into a civil war between the Algerian government and Islamic rebel groups. During the years in which the brutality of the rebels reached new heights, 19 men and women had to pay the ultimate price for their Christian faith and unwillingness to leave their land.
Among these was bishop Pierre Claverie of Oran, who was the last of the martyrs to be killed in a bombing outside the bishopric in 1996, alongside his Muslim friend and driver. The martyrdom of the monks of Tibhirine in 1996 inspired the award-winning film Of Gods and Men. The French Trappist monks lived a quiet life of coexistence and friendship with their Muslim neighbours. Refusing to leave their country and the people of Algeria, they were kidnapped and subsequently decapitated.
“Their message was love”
In their press release of October 2018, the bishops of Algeria make it clear that the purpose of the beatification is not to make of these men and women heroes. Rather it is to show that through these ordinary men and women we see how even in the darkest of times there are glimpses of hope. And their unconditional love of God, their country and their people shows us how “only love can end the alienating spiral of evil”.
The bishops quoted Dr. Issam Toualbi, a Muslim and the Director of the UNESCO Chair Emir Abdelkader for Human Rights and Culture of Peace, who said to them: “May this beatification be a precursor to the building of a better future between the two banks of the Mediterranean; a future built on respect, understanding and sharing.”