A few testimonies on Br. Henri Vergès

On 5 July 1994, Father Christian-Marie de Chergé, the Tibhirine’s Prior wrote to his Abbey General,

“I was personally very attached to Henri. His death appears so natural to me, so aligned to a whole life consecrated to God. He belongs to the category of people I call ‘The Hope Martyrs’, those we never speak of because they pour all their blood in their daily patience.” (Quotation from Dom Bernard Oliveira, general abbey of the Trappists, in a letter sent to all the Cistersian communities on 27 May 1996, after the death of seven monks of Notre Dame of the Atlas among them, Christian-Marie de Chergé)

Brother Michel Voute, Henri’s friend, Ben Cheneb Street at Algiers
“Everything was luminous and light in him, starting with his writings so limpid in form and style. Everything was a reason to magnify the Creator. A real Francis of Assisi: praise and thanksgiving were his privileged ways of praying. However, when at the beginning of a meal, if he thought that his prayer (a simple sign of the cross) could shock a visitor, a Muslim Algerian friend, he opted to express his thanksgiving with a Koranic formula. What a courtesy without any religious mawkishness! But straightforward, respectful actions flowed from his heart that listened to the Other and the other persons. Yes, Henri was a just man.”

Brother André Thizy, Henri’s provincial superior (Letter to the Brothers, 17 May 1994)
“Henri was very ready to go and meet his Lord. On the Sunday preceding his death, he and Brother Michel had gone to the Tibhirine Monastery, for a last ‘washing up’ (Brother Christian’s testimony, prior). His last will is dated, 22 April 1994! He died on the closing day of the African Synod on which he had put so much hope…
Living alone in Algeria for several years, Henri was still in a deep communion with his brothers, tied to his province more than any other brother. Who was not struck by his extreme simplicity? A true ascetic, the minimum was enough for him either at table or as regarded his personal objects. Entering his room, we were surprised by its bareness; only the presence of a wireless radio and a Koran book made it different from Father Champagnat’s room! ‘To decrease my equipment by the day’ (one of his retreat resolutions)

Many among you might have thought that Henri was in Algeria because he wanted to be there. No, he had been asked to go and work in that difficult set up. His availability was total. During my last passage, in March, in spite of the current events, he thought that his presence was more important than ever. But he left it to me to decide on my way to abide by God’s will.” ‘My new spiritual accompagnateur’s advice: don’t ask for anything, refuse nothing, accept everything’. (One of his retreat’s resolutions)

D.B., from Sour-el-Ghozlane – one of Henri’s friends wrote on 9 May 1994,
“Brother Henri left a great vacuum. This religious man whom I had known since 1978 was animated with a sincere faith; through his actions, he incarnated the values and the morality of a convinced Christian. Anyone who knew this man can’t help but appreciate his austere life, his dedication and his compassion for the weak ones, the destitute and the marginalised people. He did not spare any effort to help those people, to comfort them in their sufferings.”

From Father Jean François Berjonneau (National Service of the pastoral work for the migrants) had met Henri on 25 March 1994,

“I had perceived how he passionately loved his work in the library: a passion to meet people, a passion at the service of the young ones, a passion that tied him strongly to this people. He went all the way to the end of this Passion.”

Following the publishing of the book “From Capcir to the Casbah, a life given, a blood poured” that narrated Henri’s journeying readers reacted:

Sister Marie Nicole, of Little Sisters of Jesus at Bab el Oued. Her letter dated, 15 July 1996, Brother Henri’ birthday:
“We will remember Henri as a man of faith and kindness. This is what struck all those who lived with him. I feel that this book will be like a treasure from which we will find life and strength for the road.”

Claude Rault, White Father, 22 April 1996 letter:
“I opened the book this morning with a great emotion and I will be happy to re-read the journey’s story of this evangelical man. We often met! He will remain the witness to universal love for many Algerians.”

Brother Alessandro di Pietro, a former Marist Postulator General – Rome, 14 April 1996:
“Brother Henri’s life style was the best way for him to become a Muslim with the Muslims up to some limits that only the evangelical courtesy allowed him to cross thanks to his love of Christ and of his brother.”

Father Bonaventure, Trappist, Aiguebelle, 23 February 1996:
“The martyr speaks louder than the living person. And he will speak for a long time.”
Father Bonaventure had known Henri since his Marist youth.

Father Bruno, Trappist, Rome, 8 August 1996:
“What I admire most in Brother Henri is his application or his opening to a permanent formation. Thus, he continually ‘grew up’ at the professional, human and Christian levels and as a Marist Brother.”

An Algerian friend, to Jean Benoît Fanjaud who was Henri’s companion at Ben Cheneb – 22 September 2000:
“I am very moved by the reading of certain pages. A holy life in the light of contemplation and service. All the testimonies I read in this book confirm what I have always thought of Brother Henri: he was discreet, humble, dedicated and he was endowed with such an endearing kindness and tact. It is very possible that he forgave his assassins as Christ did.”

Brother François Chavanes, Dominican at Oran-el-Maggari (Algeria) on 4 November 2002. He wrote to ask for a copy of the book “Du Capcir à la Casbah.”
“I knew Brother Henri when he was the director of Saint Bonaventure School at Algiers and when he installed himself on Ben Cheneb Street. I saw him again in 1987 at the Focolare of Tlemcen, where he had come with a group of youngsters. I was struck by the peaceful and simple joy that he showed. After his departure, I happily said, ‘I spent the day with a saint’.”