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Marist Bulletin - Number 155

 

HENRI VERGÈS
17/07/2004

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Brother Alain Delorme, in an interview with Brother Lluís Serra
HENRI VERGÈS, BRIDGE BUILDER LINKING THE CHURCH WITH ISLAM

Alain Delorme is 72. He was born in Saint Paulet-de-Caisson, France. General Councilor, 1985 to 1993. Vice Postulator for the cause of Brother Henri Vergès, who was murdered in Algiers, May 8, 1994.

Who was Brother Henri?
Born on 15 July 1930 in Matemale, Pyrénées-Orientales, on the Capcir Plateau, the oldest of six children. His parents were farmers. He left his village at age 12 to join the Marists.

What was his Marist career?
Henri was a novice at St-Paul-3-Châteaux and a Scholastic at N-D de l’Hermitage. At age 18, he began his apostolate as a teacher, especially in Ardèche, and he stayed 8 years in Corrèze, at N-D de Lacabane as Sub-Master of Novices. Elected delegate by his Province, he took part in the 1967 General Chapter. He obtained a Licentiate in Philosophy in June 1968. He arrived in Algeria in 1969.

How did he inculturate himself?
Henri started learning Arabic ardently. He read the Koran and kept abreast of whatever could help him in his work as educator of young Muslims. At St. Bonaventure School in Algiers he succeeded in animating an educational team and launching a pedagogical project linking Muslims and Christians in trust. In Sour-El-Ghozlane, 120 kms south of Algiers, he was professor in the lycée there from 1976 to 1988. He worked wholeheartedly for his students and won the trust of his principal by his work with the weakest.

What was his contribution to Islamic-Christian dialogue?
Starting in 1980, Henri took an active part in the “Ribat,” a spiritual fraternity with Muslims which met twice annually at N-D de l’Atlas, near Medea, with the prior, Christian de Chergé, killed with 6 of his Brothers in May 1996. Henri sought to the very end to deepen the meaning of the presence of the Church in the Muslim world. It was one way of becoming one with the Algerian people. By his life and death, he was a bridge-builder between the Church and Islam.

What was his interaction with youth?
Henri was careful to avoid all proselytism. The library in Ben Cheneb Street welcomed more than 1200 young students. They found quiet there and the work tools needed. Each young person’s individual journey was respected. For Henri, this effort to understand could lead only to God.

Why introduce his cause?
Because our brother was a witness to the Church’s commitment and fidelity to young Algerians, as Cardinal Duval has asserted. Because his apostolic action is a model of respect for the other’s identity and liberty.

FMS Marist Echo 48, June 2004

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