Vatican recognises ‘martyrdom’ of monks killed during Algeria civil war

The Vatican has recognised the killing of seven monks in Algeria in 1996 as martyrs for their beatification.

The monks from the Atlas Abbey of Tibhirine near the city of Medea included Christian, Bruno, Christophe, Celestin, Luc, Paul and Michel between the ages of 45 and 82 were kidnapped at the end of March 1996 during the Algerian Civil War. They were held for two months and found dead in late May the same year.

The perpetrators of the killings remains controversial in Algeria; initially the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) claimed responsibility for the killings but in 2009 a revelation by retired General François Buchwalter placed the killing of the monks at the hands of the Algerian army which often partook in massacres in villages whilst pretending to be militants from the GIA.

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The Vatican also acknowledged the martyrdom of Pierre Claverie, a member of the Order of Friars Preachers, and 12 other men and women who were “killed by hatred of the faith, in Algeria from 1994 to 1996”, according to the Vatican decree. The seven French Trappist (belonging to the Roman Catholic Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance known as Trappist) monks were part of a group of 19 that were killed in Algeria between 1994 and 1996 who will be beatified. The beautification comes following requests made last year to Pope Francis who responded favourably this month.

According to French Trappist monk Thomas Georgeon speaking to Mondo e Missione the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions helped with the Algerian bishops’ wish that the beatification be celebrated in Algeria in the city of Oran, the diocese of the former Bishop of Oran Pierre Claverie.

“To pay homage to the 19 Christian martyrs means to pay tribute to the memory of all those who gave their lives in Algeria in the 90s,” he added.