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Nineteen Algerian martyrs will be beatified on the 8th December


The beatification of nineteen priests and nuns killed in Algeria in the 90’s will be held on Saturday, the 8th December, in Oran in the north-west of Algeria.  While the careers of the martyrs were diverse, ranging from librarians and teachers to nurses and religious, they all held one thing in common—their faith in Jesus Christ.  What follows is an insight into some of their lives.



Henri Vergès, a Marist brother and Sister Paul-Hélène Saint-Raymond were killed in Algiers, on the 8th of May 1994

Henri Verges was born on the 15th July of 1930, in the Eastern-Pyrenees, in France. When he was twelve years old, he entered the Marist order of brothers; ten years later he made his perpetual profession. After the independence of Algeria, when he was 39 years old, he moved to the Arabian country and became headmaster of the Saint Bonaventura school. Later, he was to become a maths teacher in the Sour-El-Ghozlane school. From 1988, he was the chief librarian of the library of the diocese of Casbah. It was there, while working in his office,  that he was murdered together with Sister Paul-Héléne. Curiously, he once wrote that living in this “Muslim environment” had helped him “get closer to God.”

Paul-Hélene entered the order of the Little Sisters of the Assumption after finishing her engineering studies at University. Like Henri Verges, she arrived in Algeria after the country achieved its independence. She worked as a nurse in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. In 1988 she entered the community of Belcourt in Algeria and began work in the library of Sabah, with Father Henri. In response to the violence that surrounded her,  she once wrote: “We have to fight to repress the violence within.”


Sisters Esther and Caridad, both Augustinian missionary nuns, were killed on the 23rd October 1994

As a nurse, Sister Esther —herself a great admirer of the Arabian culture, worked with sick and disabled children.   Sister Caridad, who arrived in Algeria in 1960, worked with the infirm, the old and the lonely. Both of these Spanish nuns were killed on the street while on their way to Mass. It is reported that both showed great fortitude at the moment of their death.


Seven Trappist Monks of Tibhirine were killed in May of 1996

On the night of the 26th of March 1996, six of the eight monks in the monastery of Tibhirine were kidnapped. All of them admired the Algerian people and respected the Muslim religion. Tragically, on the 4th of June, their heads were discovered in the cemetery of the monastery. The heroic sacrifice of their lives and their forgiveness of those who kidnapped them can be read in a  testimonial written by Fr Christian de Chergé, who was a priest of the community since 1984.


Fr. Pierre Claverie, Dominican, bishop of Oran, killed on the 1st August of 1996

He was born in Algeria in 1938 but  had to leave his home country for political reasons. After the war of independence, he returned to Algeria to rediscover his fatherland. He studied the Arabian language, the religion of Islam and took a serious interest in the political life of the country. In 1981, he was consecrated bishop of Oran. When the violent attacks started in the country in 1990, he chose to remain in his native land. He wrote: “Now, we must take our part in the suffering, and the hope of Algeria, with love, respect, and patience.” He was killed with his friend Mohamed Bouchikhi on the 1st of August 1996.


The risk of martyrdom will always bring our faith into sharp focus. Thankfully, most of us will never face the horrors endured by these Algerian martyrs.  We might nevertheless spare a thought and a prayer for those who risk their lives daily for the cause of Christ in the persecuted Church of the twenty-first century.

Source, photo: La Croix

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