the martyrs of algeria (1994-1996) - champagnat.org · brothers. together they ... director of the...
The Church of AlgeriaThis booklet presents agroup of nineteen martyrsof the Church of Algeria.All were passionate abouttheir Church, of whichthey were zealousservants, and passionatealso about Algeria and itspeople where they hadweaved their friendships.Humble and gentle, theLord radiated from theirhearts, in their lives and intheir silence. Theywitnessed to a settled,lucid faith, the faith ofthose preparing the spacefor dialogue in their prayerand in their presence. They are a very beautifulimage of the Church ofAlgeria: small, a fewthousand faithful people,dispersed in four dioceses:Alger, Oran, Constantine-Ippone et Laghouat. It is aliving Church by itspoverty as it has lost itssocial power and pomp.Daily, it lives love andservice. Thus purified andwithout ambitions, it canbe a bridgehead fordialogue with Islam. The small Church ofAlgeria is conscious that it is living a propheticmission, that of creating
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On the cover:Our Lady of Africa – Cathedral of Algiers.
for tomorrow the climate for a most peaceful dialoguebetween the Christian faith andthe Moslem faith, in thecertitude that we are all sonsand daughters of God, the workof his hands and that the sonsand daughters of God will finishby recognising each other. For the Moslem majority ofAlgerians, the Church ofAlgeria signifies the other, theone who is different, the onewho allows one to be aware ofhis identity and his own faith,by his difference and hispresence, leading to respect formankind.
The Church of Algeria does notforget that it is the inheritor of Saint Augustine, Saint Cyprian and Tertullien.These are all men of light thatprepared times of change. The prophetical nature of thesmall Church of Algeria willenlighten the horizon oftomorrow. It is not for nothingthat these martyrs died with a very great number of Moslembrothers. Together theyintercede that our humanitybecomes more welcoming,more tolerant, more humanand capable of giving glory toGod in his diversity.
THE MARTYRS OF ALGERIA • 3
A man whoalways tendedtowards moreclarity andsimplicity.Born on the15th July 1930in the East
Pyrenees, France. At 12 years ofage, he started his journeytowards Marist life. At 22 yearsof age, he pronounced hisperpetual vows as a LittleBrother of Mary. From 1958 to1966 he was sub-master ofnovices in Corrèze (Notre-Damede Lacabane). On the 6th August1969 he arrived in Algeria. Hisapostolic life in this countryknew three stages: ■ from 1969 to 1976 he wasDirector of the St. Bonaventureschool, in Algiers;■ from 1976 to 1988 he was a teacher of mathematics at theSour-El-Ghozlane ;■ from 1988 onwards heworked in Algiers, responsiblefor the diocesan library thatmore than a thousand youngpeople from the neighbourhoodof the Casbah frequented. Hewas murdered in his workoffice, with Sister Paul-Hélène,on the 8th May 1994, in the earlyafternoon. During his funeral, on Thursday 12th May, the feast of the Ascension,Cardinal Duval declared:
✤ “Dear Brother Henri wasan authentic witness to the loveof Christ, to the absolute self-denial of the Church and to fidelity to the Algerian people.”Henri thus summarised his livedexperience in the house ofIslam: ✤ “… It is my Maristcommitment that has allowedme, despite my limitations, to harmoniously be part of theMoslem environment, and mylife in this environment, in its turn, has made me moreprofoundly a Marist Christian.May God be praised!” In 1986, he wrote:✤“Let the Peace of Christinvade me always more andmore intimately. Patience,gentleness towards myself,patience, gentleness towards all,in particular the young peoplethe Lord entrusts to me. VirginMary, make me an instrument of peace for the world.✤“Patience, calm andtranquil perseverance. As thesower who entrusts his grain tothe earth and allows the time ofGod to do its work. An essentialattitude for an educator:especially as I do not know therhythm of development of eachof these young people. God hassimply sent me to sow the seed inthe field chosen by Him: thus tosow in peace and to leave him to look after the growth. Withoutbeing surprised by the presence of the cross, as in the life of Jesus himself.”
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THE MARIST BROTHERS
A Family without Frontiers: At the heart of the World, at the heart of the Church4,200 Brothers, from all continents, present in 76 countries.Working as Christian educatorsfor the children and youthto make out of them men and Christ’s disciples.A religious family that opens its spirituality,its charism and its missionto all Christians who want to live and collaborate with the Brothers.
Guided by the pedagogical principles of Marcellin Champagnat :– To educate well one must love!– To educate well, one must train the whole person:
the citizen and the Christian!– To educate well one must live with the young ones!– To educate well one must offer
God’s paternal and maternal tenderness.– To educate well one must allow himself to be inspired
by Mary, Christ’s Mother and Educator.– To educate well, one must open his heart
to children and youth in difficulty.Guided by Marcellin Champagnat’s SpiritualityWe go to the young onesbecause we ourselves are loved by Jesus:We go to the young ones with our eyes turned to Mary,the Good Mother: “Our apostolic action isa participation in her spiritual maternity.” (Const. 84)
Our motto is:“All to Jesus through Mary,all to Mary for Jesus.”With Marcellin’s ambition:“All the dioceses of the world attract us.”
Saint Marcellin Champagnat (1789-1840)The Founder of the Marist Brothers and a true father to them –A heart that knew no bounds,A man of faith and action,A born educator and a trainer of educators,A man of relationships and communion,A man of God and a Marial apostle,A humble, simple, discreet and happy man.
THE MARTYRS OF ALGERIA • 5
She was bornin Paris onthe 24th
January 1927.While she wasan engineer,in 1952 sheentered the
Little Sisters of the Assumptionwhere she pronounced herperpetual vows in 1960. From1954 to 1957 her apostolatewas with working families atCreil; then she did somestudies as a nurse, a professionthat led her to the workingclass sections of Paris. Duringthese years her missionarysense and availabilitydeepened and she wrote on the vigil of her perpetual vows, ✤ “I also see myself as a missionary, in the serviceof God and of the Church,here and elsewhere, in a smallcorner of Paris or in SouthAmerica… but I have the deepdesire to be totally available…wherever God would want me to be.”In 1963, she was sent toAlgiers. She stayed there until1974 and then spent one yearat Tunis, nine years atCasablanca and then returnedto Algiers in 1984. During herfirst stay in Algiers, she wasthe mainspring at the medical-
social Centre of the LittleSisters of the Assumption thatoffered the poor people of theneighbourhood a homeservice: nursing care, familywork and a private dispensary.At Casablanca, she wasresponsible for a service forpremature babies. She wasalso particularly attentive tothose who, for politicalreasons, lived secretly. Whenshe returned to Algeria in1984, she lived in communityat Ksar el Boukhari, where shewas a school nurse.It was 1988 that she rejoinedthe community of Belcourt inAlgiers and worked in thelibrary of the Casbah withBrother Henri Vergès. It was there that she wasmurdered, at the same time asBrother Henri Vergès, on the8th May 1994. In the lastperiod that she lived inAlgeria, Paul-Hélène said shewas very challenged by theviolence and she added: ✤ “We need to commence to fight against our own violence.” When Father Teissier warnedthe community as to the risks,she responded: ✤ “Father, in any way our lives are already given.” One sister gave this testimony: ✤ “Her life was given,delivered to the little ones and to the poor whom she passionately loved,welcomed and from whom
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THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE ASSUMPTION
To procure the glory of God by the salvation of the poor and the little ones
“In Jesus Christ, life and mission make only one.”
Our mission takes us into popular neighbourhoods, towards theexcluded, those without a voice, the ‘displaced’, attentive to the cau-ses of family disintegration, particularly with young people andwomen in difficulty. Our activities take on the colour of the countrywhere the congregation is implanted; everywhere there is humblework, presence and action. “May your actions speak of Jesus Christ!”our Founder used to say. It is thus ‘in the actions of daily life that wewant to manifest the love of the Father to others.’
We encourage the places of dialogue, all sorts of meetings in our sub-urbs or at work, seeking to put people in contact with each other andto foster communities of faith. It’s our way of being participants insociety and in the Church.
Consecrated to the Lord, we put in common all that we are, all thatwe have. Through that we give our life to Christ. In fraternal aposto-lic community, we come together around the Word of God and, sureof his love, we seek to spread the joy that he gives us. Mary, in herAssumption, strengthens our hope.
Our congregation was founded in 1865 in France by Father EtiennePernet, Assumptionist, and Antoinette Fage. The former used to sayto us: “You will go everywhere because everywhere there are sickpeople, poor people and souls to save… ““France is your crib but the entire universe is open to you.”There are currently 994 sisters, present in 24 countries and 5 conti-nents.
“There is great happiness in living the life of Jesus Christ and in becoming other Jesus Christs.” (E.Pernet)
she would say she received somuch. Her way of ‘announcingJesus Christ’ in the Moslemsociety was for her the respect
for the beliefs of others, a deeply personal aspect of herChristian faith, demanded in life by the Gospel.”
THE MARTYRS OF ALGERIA • 7
She was bornat Izagre (León,Spain), on the7th June 1949,daughter ofDolores Alonsoand of NicasioPaniagua.
Worried and searching forsomething, she discovered thecall to the religious life. Ateighteen years of age, sheentered the Novitiate of theCongregation of the AugustinianMissionary Sisters. In August1970 she made her final vows.She studied as a nurse and thenwas sent to Algeria. The contactwith the Arab world enticed herand refined her sensitivitytowards the Arab culture andreligion and especially towardsthe people to whom she gaveherself without reserve. Sheworked in hospitals where shegave herself totally to the sick,especially to the handicappedchildren for whom she did notkeep to a timetable. They usedto call her “their angel”. Someone asked her if she wasafraid of the situation in the country. She answered, ✤ “No one can take our lifebecause we have already givenit… Nothing will happen to ussince we are in the hands ofGod… and if something doeshappen, we are still in his hands.”
In the discernment meetingabout staying or leaving, shesaid to her sisters: ✤ “At this time, for me, theperfect model is Jesus: hesuffered, he had to overcomedifficulties and succeeded in thefailure of the cross, from wheregushed the source of life.”Her preferred book was theBible which enlightened her lifefilled with light and shade. Shealso read the Koran to betterunderstand the faith of thepeople and she loved to readthe mystics and the Sufis of theMoslem world.
She was bornat Santa Cruzde la Salceda(Burgos),Spain, on the9th May 1933,in the home of Sotera
Martín and Constantino Álvarez.In 1955, she entered theCongregation of the AugustinianMissionary Sisters. She was sentto Algeria and gave herself fullyto her mission. She made finalvows on the 3rd May 1960. Her delicate health made herreturn to Spain. Once she hadrecovered, she returned toAlgeria and stayed there morethan thirty years. She mostlylooked after elderly people and
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Sister EstherPaniagua Alonso
Sister CaridadÁlvarez Martín
the poor. She lived through the violence crisis that eruptedin the 1990s. Enticed by hermission, she never doubted foran instant about staying by the sides of the people who hadaccepted her and whom she loved profoundly. ✤“I am open to that whichGod and my superiors want ofme, Mary remained open to the
will of God, which probably costher. In the present situation, I want to stay in this attitudebefore God.” Every day she recited the rosaryand this love of the Virgin Maryidentified her as someoneconsecrated. On the 23d of October 1994,Caridad and Esther were killedon the way to the Sunday Mass.
THE MARTYRS OF ALGERIA • 9
THE AUGUSTINIAN MISSIONARY SISTERS
We are a small universal family of 500 sisters, spread out over fourcontinents and present in sixteen countries. Our charism in the Church is the search for God, fraternal life, theservice of young people, especially the least favoured by education,intelligence or of the heart.We share our charism with laypeople who come to live our spiritua-lity and our mission.
SpiritualityWe live the spirituality of Saint Augustine: the search for God, life infraternity and the service to the Church. This spirituality includes– The contemplative dimension that makes us experience God as
the interior Master and we discover how he has been acting in thehistory of mankind and of the world.
– The availability to go where apostolic needs call us.– Love for the Church and the centrality of Jesus in life. – Love for the Virgin Mary, invoked under the titles of Mother of
Good Counsel and Our Lady of Consolation.
FoundersOur Congregation was founded on the 6th May 1890 by threecontemplative Augustinian sisters: Sisters Querubina Samarra,Mónica Mujal and Clara Cantó.The urgent reason for the foundation was an epidemic of cholera inthe Philippines which had left a lot of orphans. We care especially forthe needs of abandoned children.
He was born inAngers (France)on the 27th
August 1925.Once his studieswere finished, he
entered the White Fathers. Itwas the war. At sixteen yearsof age, he succeeded inreaching North Africa. Therehe took his missionary oath onthe 29th June 1949 and wasordained a priest on the 1st
July 1950 at Carthage.Appointed to Algeria, hestayed there nearly all his life:responsible for centres offormation, regional superior,regional econome. He wasmurdered on his feast day onthe 27th December 1994 atTizi-Ouzou. He was in hisoffice, receiving people,recording information anddoing the mail. Towardsmidday, he was snatched byfour armed men.Father Pierre Georgin, Superior General, said, ✤ “This serious man ofduty, I found in him a degreethat touched on heroism.” In the Kabylies mountains,while violence was on theincrease in all of Algeria, Jeanknew he was exposed: ✤ “I know that I can diemurdered. Our vocation is towitness to the Christian faith
on Moslem land. For the rest,‘Inch Allah!’” One of his sisters asked him inSeptember 1994: “Why are youreturning there?” He answered: ✤ “I am returning there togive witness. My home is there,near my Berber friends. If I die,I want to be buried there.”
He was born on the 21st May1919 at St-Brieuc (France). Hefollowed his studies in lawwhich he finished in 1943. Thissame year he was accepted bythe White Fathers. He made hisoath at Thibar on the 29th June1949 and was ordained a prieston the 1st February 1950.Appointed to Algeria, he spentall his missionary life there,especially in Kabylie, working inadministration and teaching. He was a man of God, seekingthe absolute. ✤“When Father Alain startedto speak to me of God, I recall that he would close his eyes,remembers Amar, and softly helet loose his words in so low atone that I would have to listenhard: we must love God ourFather, our refuge and our life,
by loving alsoour brothers inthe Lord JesusChrist; that’s what he wouldrepeat over
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Biographies of 4 Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers)
and over again.” Before his death he wrote: ✤“As the apostles on the lake,we have only to cry towards theLord to wake him… The future isin the hands of God.” He was murdered in the mission courtyard on the 27th December 1994.
He was born atAnvers(Belgium) on the 26th
December 1924.At the end of his
studies he joined the WhiteFathers. He took his oath on the21st July 1949 and was ordaineda priest on the 8th April 1950. Hestudied Arabic in Tunis. In 1955at Tizi-Ouzou he learnt Berberand became responsible for ayouth hostel. For three years he directed the El Kalima Centre in Brussels, a centre ofdocumentation and of dialoguebetween Christians and Moslemimmigrants. In 1982, he went toYemen, but in 1987 he returnedto Algeria, as parish priest of OurLady of Africa. Very loved by theKabyles, during the celebrations in January 2005, his name oftencame up in testimonies: ✤“I knew Father Deckers,”recalled one witness, “I keep inmy memory the image of thissower of hope for the mosthopeless… with this serenity thatonly emanates from saints…”
He was aware of the dangers he was courting: ✤“I know that my activitiesare dangerous for my life. Here is my vocation, I remain… Our Lady of Africa remains at the mercy of an insane act. In the diocese, we think that the maintenance of the presenceof the Church is important, as much for the Church itself as for the country.”On the 27th December 1994, heset on his way to celebrate withhis friend Jean Chevillard. A fewminutes after his arrival, he waskilled in the mission courtyard.
He was born inDigne (France)on the 27th
October 1958.After havingobtained his
engineering diploma in 1981, heworked as a volunteer in IvoryCoast for two years and in 1985he entered the White Fathers. Itwas in Rome, by a strangecoincidence, that Christian tookhis missionary oath on the 26th
November 1991, his right handplaced on the pages of a Gospelof Saint John in the Arabiclanguage, found on the remainsof Father Richard, murdered inthe Sahara in 1881. He wasordained a priest on the 28th
June 1992. On his return to Tizi-Ouzou, he prepared thelibrary project for the students.
THE MARTYRS OF ALGERIA • 11
A young Algerian woman wroteafter his death: ✤“To the parents of ouryoung Father Christian… I would say: know that duringhis last days, Christian wasvery happy… He had startedthe project, so dear to his heart,of building a library for all theyoung people of Tizi-Ouzou.”At the start of November 1994,Christian went to the
monastery of Tibhirine to bewith the group Ribât-es-Salam(Link of peace). He wrote: ✤ “I feel the necessity ofbalancing my life by amore spiritual dimensionand something more simpleand lived.” A hail ofmachine gun bullets ended his life on the 27th December1994 in the Tizi-Ouzoucourtyard.
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THE MISSIONARIES OF AFRICA (WHITE FATHERS)
A missionary Institute founded in Algeria with a passion for Africa.Formed by 1770 brothers and priests of Africa, America, Asia and Europe. 640 are in Africa in the service of the local churches: parishes, institutions of formation and animation. A constant commitment: the first evangelisation.An important presence in the more Islamic African countries.Commitments for justice, peace, reconciliation and inter-religious dialogue:heritage of the founder. A life in international communities, founded on sharing and mutual help.
Attitudes of an apostle according to the founder“Be apostles, be only that or at least be nothing but that in this aim.”To be all to all “by language first, by clothing, by food”: a first step towards inculturation. To Christianise Africa, not to Europeanise it: importance of tolerance and respect for others.“Visum pro martyrio”: “ it is, in effect, my well beloved Sons, the trial that waits you all.”
Cardinal Charles Lavigerie (1825-1892)Founder of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) and the White Sisters. Archbishop of Algiers, of Carthage and Primate of Africa. A zeal to knock down barriers.A battle: to defend the rights and the liberty of people. A concern: to reconcile the Church with its time and to prepare the future. A stern voice, a heart of gold and an extraordinary capacity to be interested in everyone.
In the name of God,the Clement and Merciful One.“Praise to God, Lord of the world,the Clement and Merciful One,the King at the day of judgement.It is You whom we adore,it is You from whom we implore help.Show us the right path,the one of those whom You have filled with Your grace,not the one of those who incur Your anger,nor the one who has strayed.”
“Al-Fatiha “(1st sura of the Koran)
She was born in Tunis on the22nd November 1933. In 1957,Jeanne entered the Postulancy ofthe Sisters of Our Lady of theApostles and received the nameof Angèle-Marie. Shepronounced her first vows onthe 8th September 1959 and sheleft for Algeria to Bouzareawhere the Sisters ran anorphanage and boarding schoolfor young girls. She stayed therefrom 1959 to 1964, in charge ofthe little ones and as anembroidery teacher. In 1964,when the Algiers School of Artopened in Belcourt, she wentthere as an embroidery teacher.She stayed there until her death.Patient, close and simple withthe girls, she wanted to inculcatein them the love of art, of workwell done; she spoke to them intheir own language. SisterAngèle-Marie was profoundlyattached to Algeria, to itsinhabitants, to her mission,sharing with this people theirjoys and their sufferings. WhenFather Bonamour, the parishpriest, recalled the danger andinvited the sisters to be ready,they responded: ✤ “We are ready.”When leaving from Mass duringthe afternoon of Sunday the 3rd
September 1995, a sister sharedher fear about the violence withher. Angèle-Marie answered her:
✤ “We must not be afraid. Wemust only live the presentmoment well… the rest does notbelong to us.” Her mission was fulfilled in thispeace and this simplicity. Aboutten minutes later, on their wayto the house, Sister Angèle Mariewas killed with Sister Bibiane,her companion.
Denise Leclercq was born onthe 8th January 1930 at Gazerau,France. She entered the Sistersof Our Lady of the Apostles onthe 4th March 1959. After herfirst vows on the 8th March 1961,she was sent to Algeria to thematernity ward of Constantine.A good collaborator, attentive tothe needs of others, SisterBibiane flourished in the care ofthe newly born and theirmothers. In 1964 she was inAlgiers, in charge of a sewingand embroidery centre foryoung people without studies.The sisters received the younggirls from underprivilegedneighbourhoods where theyvisited the families. This allowed
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Jeanne Littlejohn Sister Angèle-Marie
Denise LeclercqSister Bibiane
Sister Bibiane to discover thegreat material and moral miseryof Algerian women. Shewitnessed to Jesus Christ in the“silence of words” and theactions of her life.In 1994, she had to make adecision: stay or leave? SisterBibiane’s response was clear:✤“It is the people themselveswho have asked for the Sisters.Actually they have asked that westay. I am very saddened, I feelpowerless before so muchsuffering, but I know, God lovesthese people and I have greatconfidence in Our Lady of
Africa. Jesus said, ‘the Father willgive you all that you ask for inmy name’… His light helps me to discover marvels that arehidden, surprising solidarities,generosities, superhumancourage; the Spirit is in theirheart who works. The Word of God helps me to stay attentive to be a ray of hope: I choose to stay”.With this interior freedom, when leaving mass on the 3rd September 1995, onlyabout one hundred metres fromthe house, Sister Bibiane waskilled with Sister Angèle-Marie.
THE MARTYRS OF ALGERIA • 15
THE SISTERS OF OUR LADY OF THE APOSTLES
A religious family that is exclusively missionary, founded in Lyon in1876 by Father Augustin Planque (1826 – 1907) who, by his faithand audacity, shared his passion with us:
“To know and love God to make him known and loved.”
There are 800 Sisters, of 21 nationalities living in 19 countries.
■ We live in international communities, a sign of the universality ofthe Church.
■ As Mary at the Cenacle with the Twelve, we persevere in prayerand with the audacity of the apostles we commit ourselves to theservice of God’s Kingdom in the world.
■ Sent beyond borders, we audaciously proclaim the dead andresurrected Christ to a pluricultural world.
■ We work at evangelisation, particularly in Africa. In an attitudeof simplicity and respect… we collaborate in the inculturation ofthe Gospel.
■ We live an effective solidarity with the poor, especially withwomen and the marginalised of our contemporary society.
■ Attentive to the missionary dimension of the local Church, we col-laborate in social, religious, educational and health activities …
She was born on the 17th July1932 in Champagne, France.In 1950, she headed towardsteaching and was a teacher forthree years. In 1953, at twenty-one years of age she enteredthe Little Sisters of the SacredHeart of Charles de Foucauld. In 1959, she made herperpetual profession.From 1958, she left on missionto Kbab in Morocco, then toArgenteuil (France) among theMaghrebines and in 1968 toAlgiers. She tried to enter intothe great spiritual adventure of understanding others at the interior of their ownreligious tradition. She readthe Koran and prayed ingroups where Christians andMoslems prayed together. She knew how to live veryclose to the people of herpoor neighbourhood in respect, friendship,
in the little things of life, in services asked and servicesgiven. Following Jesus ofNazareth, she let the love ofGod be seen in the simpleencounters of life. She knew how to analysepolitical situations and wasaware of danger; ✤ “It’s a privileged time tolive fidelity to Jesus Christ andto the Gospel more truly.” She died in Algiers from the bullets of a terrorist whileshe was going to Mass on the 10th November 1995. No one could take her life forshe had already profoundlyand consciously given it.
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Sister Odette Prévost
She knew how to live very close to the people, in respect, friendship,
in the little things of life, in services asked and services given.
THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART
A small religious family following in the footsteps of Charles deFoucauld, present in France, Spain, Algeria, Tunisia, Mali and Bolivia
MissionPrayer is our first commitment for our brothers and sistersand for the world, in a life of sharing and of closeness withthose who are least favoured, far from the Church. To be a place of dialogue between people and different cul-tures in a fraternal community life.
Way of lifeTo live in small fraternities with those who are in a preca-rious position.To make our relationship with God in times of prayer and inour fraternal relationships legible and accessible to all.
Blessed Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916)An orphan with a Christian education, he sought the mea-ning of his life during his adolescence and his youth.
In Algeria, faith and Moslem prayerawoke in him the concern of God; heconverted at the age of 28.“He made religion a love”. He entereda Trappist monastery, then he went toNazareth and finally in the AlgerianSahara where he was murdered onthe 1st December 1916.
THE MARTYRS OF ALGERIA • 17
Spirituality:– to follow Jesus to Nazareth,– to contemplate in the Eucharist and in the poor, – to become brother of all.
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During the night of the 26th March 1996,seven monks out of nine, from themonastery of Tibhirine, were taken hostagein circumstances that have never beenclear. Probably the seven monks weremurdered during the night of the 21st May1996. They were decapitated and only theirheads were buried on the 4th June in themonastery cemetery, after a solemn funeralin the cathedral of Algiers. The precisecircumstances of the fifty-six days ofdetention and their death remain a mystery.Their choice to stay in Algeria, despite a growing climate of terror, had matured incommon after an intimidating visit by anarmed group during Christmas night 1993.This free decision expressed their wish tostay together, sharing with their neighboursthe dangers of the violence that affectedthe most destitute. They wanted to be in solidarity with the small ecclesialcommunity, given to God and to Algeriaand offered like Christ for the salvation of the people. They knew they wereheading towards death and they acceptedthis unreservedly. The offering of their livesand the forgiveness of the aggressors arefound in a marvellous way in the testamentof the prior, in the diary of the master of novices and in the letters of other brothers to their families.These seven brothers, very different fromeach other, were united in love for the Algerian people, respect for Islam andthe desire for poverty. This secondvocation, linked to the great Christian andCistercian vocation, led them to witnesstogether to the Lord’s Paschal Mysterythrough the offering of their lives.
Le seven brothers of Tibhirine
D. CHRISTIANDE CHERGÉ
Prior of themonastery, hewas the animator
of a spiritual path that led thecommunity to accept clearlythe possibility of martyrdom.He was born on the 19th January 1937 at Colmar(Haut-Rhin), France.He was ordained a priest onthe 21st March 1964 and heentered the Trappist monasteryof Aiguebelle on the 20th August 1969. In January1971 he arrived at Tibhirinewhere he finished his novitiateand made his simpleprofession. From 1971 to 1973he studied Arabic and Islam inRome. He returned to Algeriaand made his solemn vows onthe 1st October 1976. On the31st March 1984, he waselected prior.✤“It is certain that Godloves the Algerians andwithout doubt has chosen toshow them this by giving themour lives… For each one it is amoment of truth and heavyresponsibility in these timeswhen those we love feel so littleloved. Each one learns tointegrate little by little death inthis gift and with death all theother conditions of thisministry of living togetherwhich is a demand of totalgratuity”. (Circular letter – 25.4.1995)
Brother LucDochier, gruffbut profoundly
human, became legendary inthe region thanks to his servicesto the sick. Born on the 31st
January 1914 at Bourg-de-Péage(Drôme), after his studies inmedicine, he did militaryservice in Morocco as a medicallieutenant. He entered theTrappist monastery ofAiguebelle on the 7th December1941 and took the habit of abrother. From 1943 to 1945 hewas a voluntary prisoner inGermany having taken theplace of a father of a family. In1946, he left for Tibhirinewhere on the 15th August 1949,he pronounced his perpetualvows as a brother. In 1959 hewas taken hostage with anotherbrother by the ALN, but theywere released after two weeks.When the monks werekidnapped, he was 82 years oldand with fifty years of presence in Algeria. ✤“What can happen to us?To go towards the Lord and tobe immersed in his tenderness.God is all merciful and thegreat forgiver”. (Letter of 5.1.1995).✤ “There is no true love ofGod without consentingunreservedly to death… Deathis God”. (Letter of 28.5.1995)
THE MARTYRS OF ALGERIA • 19
He was theyoungest. Hebelonged to the
generation of the studentrevolts of 1968. He grewrapidly in faith to the gift ofhis life according to theprofound testimony of hisdiary and of his poetry. He was born on the 11th
October 1950 at Blois (Loir-et-Cher). At twelve years of age,he entered the minor seminarybut he left at the end of highschool. He enrolled in thefaculty of law and did his civilservice in Algeria. On the 1st
November 1974, he enteredthe Trappist monastery ofTamié and while still a novicehe left for Tibhirine. In 1977he preferred to return toTamié where he made hissolemn profession on the 1st
November 1980. On the 8th
October he returned to OurLady of Atlas. He wasordained a priest on the 1st
January 1990. Testament: ✤ “My body is for the earth;but please, no protectionbetween it and me. My heart isfor life, but please no waybetween it and me. My handsfor work are crossed, verysimply. May my face beabsolutely bare so as not toprevent the kiss. And the look, let it see it”.
He was anuntiring worker,a simple and
silent man, desirous ofparticipating fully in the PaschalMystery of Christ. He was bornon the 21st May 1944 at Sainte-Anne-sur-Brivet and until theage of seventeen he worked on the land. For nine years hestudied at the seminary. Then hespent ten years at Prado,working as a factory worker inLyon, Paris and Marseille. Heentered the Trappist monasteryat Bellefontaine in November1980. He left for Tibhirine in1984. He made profession onthe 28th August 1986.✤ “Spirit Holy Creator, deignto bind me as soon as possible –not my will but yours be done –to the Paschal Mystery of JesusChrist, our Lord, with the meansthat you would want, sure thatYou, Lord will live it in me…” (Act of offering – 30.5.1993).
Superior of theannex house atFès, in Morocco,
he was a measured and deeplyhumble man. He was born onthe 1st March 1930 at Saint-Maixent and entered the majorseminary in Poitiers after hissecondary school studies. From
20 • THE BLOOD OF LOVE
1951 to 1953, he did his militaryservice in Algeria. He wasordained a priest on the 2nd
April 1956. From 1956 to 1980he taught at the Saint Charles deThouars College and at the ageof fifty-one, he entered theTrappist monastery ofBellefontaine. He left forTibhirine in 1984. On the 21st
March 1990 he made his solemnprofession at Tibhirine. In 1991he became responsible for theannexed house of Fès. At the time when he was takenhostage, he was at Tibhirine for a few days for the election of the prior. ✤“You lead me, Lord, insilence and in prayer, in workand in joyous service of mybrothers, in the example of yourhidden life at Nazareth. (Notes –1981) I am always happy in mymonastic life and to live in theland of Islam. Quite simply: Here is Nazareth with Jesus,Mary and Joseph… ”(Letter of December 1995)
He was of a richsensitivity andvery talented in
interpersonal relationships.He was born on the 29th July1933 at Touvois (LoireAtlantique) and at twelve yearsof age he entered the seminary.From 1957 to 1959 he did hismilitary service in Algeria. He
was ordained a priest on the17th January 1960 and for morethan twenty years his ministrywas among the marginalised ofNantes. On the 19th July 1983 heentered Bellefontaine. In 1986he left for Atlas where he madeprofession on the 1st May 1989. ✤“O Jesus, I accept with allmy heart that your death is renewed and accomplished in me; I know that with you we ascend from the dizzydescent to the abyss, proclaimingto the demon his defeat”. (Paschal Antiphon)
Very skilful inmanual labour;he was helpful
and friend to all. He was bornon the 17th April 1939 atVinzier (Haute-Savoie). Heworked with his father as ablacksmith, then he followed aprofessional training andbecame a very expert plumber.After the death of his mother,in 1984, he entered Our Ladyof Tamié. From there he leftfor Tibhirine in 1989. He madehis perpetual profession on the20th August 1991. ✤ “What will remain in afew months of the Church ofAlgeria, of its visibility, of itsstructures, the people whocompose it? With all probabilitylittle, very little. And yet Ibelieve that the Good News is
THE MARTYRS OF ALGERIA • 21
The Trappists are contemplative monks. Their way of life is coe-nobitic, in a stable community, which is the school of fraternalcharity. They follow the great Benedictine tradition, reinterpretedby the Cistercian founders of the XIth century who rediscoveredthe value of manual work, with a balance between liturgy and thelectio divina, personal prayer and necessary work for livingwithout depending on anybody. The life is lived in a climate ofsolitude and silence, with a certain austerity, radicalised in theXVIIth century by the Trappist reform (De Rancé). Today that isexpressed especially by a kind of robust, sober life that tendstowards the experience of the living God.A characteristic of the order is the link between the different hou-ses, autonomous, but united among them by the Chart of charity,with the obligation of reciprocal help, material as well as spiritual.
Saint Bernard de Clairvaux , the mostwell known saint of the Order, described theCistercian life in this way:“Our order is renunciation, humility, poverty,obedience, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.Our order is living under a master, under anabbot, under a rule, under a discipline.Our order is to apply ourselves to silence, to fast, to keep vigil,to pray, to work manually and especially to follow the way thatis still more excellent which is that of charity; then, in all thesethings, to progress day by day and to persevere in it until thefinal day.”
There are 171 Trappist monasteries, present in 46 countries on 5continents, with close to 2100 monks and 1700 nuns.
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sown, the grain is germinating(…) The Spirit is at work, heworks in the depths of the heartof people. Let’s be available so
that he can act in us throughprayer and the loving presenceof all our brothers”. (Letter of 11.1.1995)
Christ Jesus, being in the form of God,did not count equality with God something to be grasped.
But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,becoming as human beings are;and being in every way like a human being,he was humbler yet,even to accepting death, death on a cross.
And for this God raised him high,and gave him the namewhich is above all other names;so that all beings in the heavens,on earth and in the underworld,should bend the knee at the name of Jesusand that every tongue should acknowledgeJesus Christ as Lord,to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians, 2, 6-11).
THE MARTYRS OF ALGERIA• 23
The life anddeath of PierreClaverie, 1938-1996,Dominicanand bishop ofOran, offers a
response to the signs of ourtimes, characterised by tensionsthat are often violent betweenpeople who live different faithsand creeds. The incessantsearch for God and the call toall believers that Claverie made,to live together in peace and inreciprocal respect, find anexpression in a vowedexistence totally at theannouncement of his own faith:a long fidelity, where his commitment in favour ofdialogue was the centre and hislife the price. On the 1st August1996, Pierre Claverie, bishop of Oran, was murdered withMohamed, the young Algerianwho was his driver.
Journey of a life given.Pierre Claverie was born inAlgiers on the 8th May 1938. In 1957, he studied mathematicsphysics and chemistry at theUniversity of Grenoble. In 1958,he directed his life towards theDominicans. He would alwayskeep alive the glowing charismof the Word for which he wasparticularly gifted. From 1959 to
1967 he studied theology atSaulchoir.He returned to Algeria in 1967:✤ “After independence, I asked to return to Algeria torediscover the world where I wasborn… It’s there that my truepersonal adventure began.”He quickly started studyingArabic. In 1970, the bishop ofConstantine-Hippone, BishopJean Scotto, took him aspersonal collaborator. But in1973, he was asked to lookafter a language and pastoralcentre of the Glycines, inAlgiers. On the 5th June 1981,he was appointed bishop ofOran. He participated in socialand political debate and placedhimself on the lines of fracturethere where the future of thecountry was being formed; butthere also his life was indanger. As bishop and as aDominican, he refused to besilent and on the contrary, hepushed the word with luciditytowards the audacity of thetruth. His life would be theprice he would pay. ✤ “It is now that we musttake our part of the sufferingand of the hope of Algeria, with love, respect patience andlucidity.”✤ “I have been often asked…You return home? But where isour home? We are here for the
24 • THE BLOOD OF LOVE
Bishop Pierre Claverie (1938-1996) Bishop of Oran
crucified Messiah: for no otherreason and for no otherperson!… It is a questionof love.”✤ “The martyrdom is thegreatest testimony of love. It isnot a matter of runningtowards death, nor seekingsuffering for suffering’s sake…but it is in shedding your ownblood that you come close to God.”✤ “Holiness is above all a great passion. There is a madness in holiness, themadness of love, the samemadness of the cross, whichmocks the wisdom of mankind.”A Moslem friend wrote:✤ “There are men who,
having perceived in advancethe meaning of history…emerge from destiny as mortalsby actions of a great range ofhumanity or of truth… These men, moved often by a demanding moral reflection, do not hesitate to take their partof responsibility through love of the truth… Bishop Claveriewas one of these exceptionalmen, in search of creatingbridges between men of anyfaith or origin, strugglingso that the right for differencecan be accepted and lived without restriction, in a sincere dialogue that iswithout reserve…”
THE MARTYRS OF ALGERIA • 25
THE DOMINICANS OR THE ORDER OF PREACHERS
The joy of living and announcing the Gospel
The Dominicans were founded by Saint Dominic in 1215.Today, there are more than 6,000 present in all the conti-nents. The contemplative nuns and many male or female reli-gious institutes who are inspired by their spirituality, and thelaity who share in their charism and mission are more andmore numerous. They form the Dominican family.
The Dominicans are characterised by contemplation, studyand the preaching of the Word of God: “Our zeal is foun-ded on our passion for opening men to ways of life, truthand freedom, by the word. From the origin, the vocationof the Order of Preachers has been to “work for the sal-vation of souls” by the proclamation of the Gospel. Saint Peter of Verona, Saint Raymond de Peñafort – inthe XIIIth century founder of a study centre for Arabic inNorth Africa, Saint Thomas Aquinas and the Blessed FraAngelico were Dominicans.
«No matter that the universal believer be Brahman, Jew, Christian or Moslem,his religion is love:love towards God and love towards his creatures… Each child born in a Jewish,Chinese or Moslem housecan know,in God,his true master;this aptitude is innate».
(Koran XXX - 30)
«God is one,Life is one,Humanity is one,And love is one.
(Koran II – 133; 140)
Every day, at Mass, we celebrate the passion, the deathand the resurrection of Jesus, our Lord, the central eventof our faith. From this death comes salvation, our life assons and daughters of God.We have a martyr as Saviourand Lord.
Jesus thus opens a way for his disciples:“If the grain ofwheat that falls to the ground does not die, it remainsalone… Whoever loses his life, will find it again in eter-nal life!”The call to martyrdom is an integral part of ourfaith.That certain Christians go as far as shedding theirblood signifies the good health of the people of God.Jesus renews his martyrdom, “the grain dies and bearsmuch fruit”, as Tertullien said, one of the great theolo-gians of the Church at Maghreb:“the blood of the mar-tyrs is the seed of Christians!”
Throughout its already long history, the Church hasknown many martyrs. In latter times, many are discipleswho have given witness by the shedding of their blood.John Paul II recalled this on the 7th May 2000, at theColosseum, in commemorating the “New Martyrs”of theXXth century:“In the great Algerian torment, which tookthousands of lives, the Church of Algeria stands withoutappearances or power. It is present to a prize that hascost it nineteen martyrs in a few years: a Marist Brother,six religious sisters at Algiers, four White Fathers at Tizi-Ouzou, the seven Trappists monks of Atlas and PierreClaverie, the bishop of Oran.”
Our nineteen martyrs present a very varied gamut ofhumanity: we find the soft and the strong, the mysticsand the poets, the active and the contemplatives, thoseof humble daily service and the pioneers in mission,those of the powerful word and those of contemplativesilence. All witness to love, service and dialogue. Theirsacrifice is a blessing of peace for the small Church ofAlgeria and for all the Algerian people.
THE MARTYRS OF ALGERIA • 27
Lord God, our Father,we praise you for the passion, the death and the resurrection of your Son Jesus,He, the martyr by excellence,from whom salvation comes.
You wanted to share his martyrdomwith our brothers and sisters of the AlgerianChurch:Henri and Paul-Hélène, Caridad and Esther,Jean, Charles,Alain and Christian,Angèle-Marie and Bibiane, Odette,Christian, Luc, Christophe, Michel,Bruno, Célestin and Paul,and your bishop Pierre.
We pray you, Father, so that, by their intercession,dialogue, respect and love will be strengthenedamong your Christian and Moslem children.Bless Algeria and its people,and we give you glory, in peace.
Father, we invoke our martyrs for…(specify the grace to be asked for)
And you, Mary, whom all have loved and who are venerated in the house of Islam,hear our prayer and intercede for us with your Son,Jesus, our Lord.Amen.