2010-07-03 GENERAL HOUSE

Speaking of the martyrs

A word about the cause of the group of martyrs of Br. Crisanto. This group numbers 68 martyrs: 66 Brothers and two laymen. The positio, or book demonstrating the martyrdom, was sent to the Congregation of Saints on 7 December 2001. Today it appears in 22nd place in the whole list of causes and in 7th place with regard to the causes of the martyrs of Spain. That allows us to hope that the positio will be studied by the theologians during 2012 and by the cardinals and bishops in 2013.

If all goes well, the beatification could take place sometime prior to 2014. It may be our wish, however, to wait until the year 2017 in order to place the beatification in the context of the bicentenary year of the Institute.

A document about this group has been placed among the works related to our saints. The document can be found in the series: Our Saints, on our WEB page.

Among the Spanish martyrs we still have the group of Brother Eusebio and his 58 companions, all Brothers who were martyred. For the group, however, we must still complete the positio. We are awaiting the time when the relevant member of the Congregation of the Saints will have finished reading the chapter on the martyrdom. The chapter is the last one in the positio.

To the cause of Brother Eusebio is to be linked that of Brother Lycarion, killed in Barcelona in l909 during the ?Week of Tragedy.? The positio on behalf of Brother Lycarion has already been completed and accepted; it awaits the proper moment to be joined to that of Brother Eusebio.

The cause of the martyrs of Algeria

In October 2007, the archdiocese of Algiers opened the cause of the martyrs of Algeria. They form a group of 19 martyrs from May 1994 to August 1996. At the head of the procession is our Brother Henri Vergès, killed with Sister Paul-Hélène on 8 May 1994. The list closes with Monseigneur Pierre Claverie, Bishop of Oran, killed the 1st of August 1996. Included in this number are the 7 Trappist monks of Tibhirine, subjects of the film Des Hommes et des Dieux which carried off the main prize at the Festival of Cannes. There are also 6 Sisters in the list: Esther and Caridad, Marie-Angèle and Bibiane, Odette, and Paul-Hélène, already mentioned, and 4 White Fathers: Jean Chevillard, Alain Dieulangard, Charles Deckers and Christian Chessel.

I was in Algeria from 20 to 28 May in my role as postulator of the cause to see what stage it had reached. The situation is as follows:

1-The diocesan tribunal has already heard 136 witnesses; all the people who knew the various victims. They had to reply to questions about the persons of the martyrs and about the martyrdom. I give below some thoughts expressed by one or the other of the witnesses or recalling those of the martyrs. Four or five witnesses remain to be called. This would make an average of 7 witnesses per martyr; but as often happens with groups of martyrs, the effective number is between 14 and 21.

2-The historians responsible for finding the documents and the writings of the servants of God will meet on 1, 2 and 3 June in the General House of the Trappist Fathers. They will probably come up with a final report which concludes their work.

3-The theologians have been named for the most important cases: two to read the writings of the seven monks of Tibhirine and two those of Monseigneur Pierre Claverie. The other cases presenting fewer writings will be examined by Monseigneur Ghaleb Bader or by a theologian he appoints. Supposing that the theologian censors set to work quite quickly, the closing of the diocesan tribunal can be forseen in one or two years. Then the Roman phase of the cause will commence.

4-Here are some thoughts gleaned from the testimonies:
– At the hospital which received their bodies, Sisters Marie Angèle and Bibiane were dressed in Algerian clothing. How not to see there the definitive acceptance given to the two Sisters considered by the people as true Algerians.
– For Sister Odette, the personnel of the hospital showed tenderness in the face of the death, strong emotion, silent and mingled with shame.
– One witness has this beautiful expression: « The memory of the martyrs leads to the desire for peace! »
-At the funerals of the 4 White Fathers at Tizi-Ouzou, a flower was offered to each of the persons who attended the funeral, and they were very numerous.
– Another witness stated: « These martyrs preferred coffins to suitcases! »
– Christ is the centre and the martyrs are in the centre.
– One priest affirmed: « I mention their names in the canon of the mass? ».
– Father Bernardo Olivera, Superior General of the Trappists, found himself at table with John Paul II, during the Synod of the Americas. The Pope?s secretary, Archbishop Diwitzch, asked him if the monks killed in Algeria were martyrs. The Pope responded briefly: « They are truly martyrs? ». It is also known that John Paul II had Christian de Chergé represented with two martyrs of the first centuries in his personal chapel, Redemptoris Mater.
– Mgr Pierre Claverie recognized: « I have fought for dialogue and friendship between peoples, cultures and religions. All that probably merits death, and I am ready to take on the risk; it would even be homage to the God I believe in! » (May 1994) And he added: « To go to death with no other equipment than disarmed love! ». It was thus he saw the Church: « A Church whose head can be killed like anyone else! ».

Two things go together in these martyrs:
-They wanted to remain faithful to the Algerian people, their culture, their friends, and to the Church in Algeria; they wanted to be people of dialogue and stay with a people itself submitted to martyrdom.
-From the Algerian people, each martyr has received many testimonies of love and abundant tears; The deaths have drawn out the finest human sentiments, revealing the great humanity: for one killer, a thousand hearts weep.

We have here two bridgeheads for a solid religious dialogue.

Br. Giovanni Maria Bigotto, Postulator
Rome, 29 May 2010


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