ORAN, Algeria (CNA)—The Algerian bishops’ conference has announced that the beatification of Bishop Pierre Claverie and his 18 companions, who were martyred in the country between 1994 and 1996, will be held December 8. The beatification will take place at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Holy Cross in Oran.
The new blesseds “have been given to us as intercessors and models of the Christian life, of friendship and fraternity, of encounter and dialogue. May their example aid us in our life today,” the Algerian bishops wrote.
“From Algeria, their beatification will be for the Church and for the world, an impetus and a call to build together a world of peace and fraternity.”
In January Pope Francis had authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to recognize the martyrdoms. Claverie was a French Algerian, and the Bishop of Oran from 1981 until his August 1, 1996 martyrdom. He and his companions were killed during the Algerian Civil War by Islamists.
In addition to Claverie, those being beatified are: Brother Henri Vergès, Sister Paul-Hélène Saint-Raymond, Sister Esther Paniagua Alonso, Sister Caridad Álvarez Martín, Fr. Jean Chevillard, Fr. Alain Dieulangard, Fr. Charles Deckers, Fr. Christian Chessel, Sister Angèle-Marie Littlejohn, Sister Bibiane Leclercq, Sister Odette Prévost, Brother Luc Dochier, Brother Christian de Chergé, Brother Christophe Lebreton, Brother Michel Fleury, Brother Bruno Lemarchand, Brother Célestin Ringeard, and Brother Paul Favre-Miville.
The best known of Claverie’s companions are the seven monks of Tibhirine, who were kidnapped from their Trappist priory in March 1996. They were kept as a bartering chip to procure the release of several imprisoned members of the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria, and were killed in May 1996. Their story was dramatized in the 2010 French film Of Gods and Men, which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival.
The prior, Christian de Chergé, sought peaceful dialogue with the Muslim population of the area and provided employment, medical attention, and education to the locals. Dom Christian accepted that the current political tensions and violent militias were a threat to his life. According to the Trappist order, he wrote a letter to his community and family, citing the peace felt giving his life to God.
“If it should happen one day—and it could be today—that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to engulf all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church and my family to remember that my life was given to God and to this country,” he said.
After the death of the monks of Tibhirine, Bishop Claverie knew his life was in serious danger. A bomb exploded at the entrance of his chancery August 1, 1996, killing him and an aide, Mohamed Bouchikhi.
Sister Esther Paniagua Alonso and Sister Caridad Álvarez Martín were Augustinian missionaries from Spain who were killed October 23, 1994 in Algiers.