Slain French monks among 19 to be beatified in Algeria

A picture taken on November 28, 2018, shows a picture of the seven French Trappist monks glued on a door at the Tibhirine monastery. (AFP)
Updated 05 December 2018
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Slain French monks among 19 to be beatified in Algeria

  • The Catholic Church will beatify in Algeria seven French monks and 12 other clergy killed during the country’s civil war
  • The Trappist monks were abducted from the Priory of Our Lady of Atlas in Tibhirine

ORAN: The Catholic Church will on Saturday beatify in Algeria seven French monks and 12 other clergy killed during the country’s civil war, the first ceremony of its kind in a Muslim nation.
The Trappist monks were abducted from the Priory of Our Lady of Atlas in Tibhirine, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) southwest of Algiers, by gunmen in March 1996.
Their severed heads were discovered two months later and their deaths were announced by the insurgent Armed Islamic Group of Algeria (GIA).
The tragedy inspired a 2010 French film, “Des Hommes et des Dieux,” (Of Gods and Men) starring Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale that won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival.
The Vatican declared in January that the monks were martyrs for their faith, along with the 12 others slain in Algeria between 1994 and 1996, including Bishop Pierre Claverie of Oran.
Frenchman Claverie, who strove to improve ties between different faiths, was assassinated along with his driver in a bomb attack at his office in 1996.
The five other religious men and six women killed, including citizens of France, Spain, Belgium and one born in Tunis, were gunned down in 1994 and 1995.
Beatification is the first step on the path to Roman Catholic sainthood.
It is reserved for three categories of people: martyrs, those who have lived a life of heroic values, and others with a clear saintly reputation.


Some 200,000 people lost their lives in Algeria’s 1991-2002 civil war between Islamists and security forces, dubbed the country’s “Black Decade.”
Archbishop of Algiers, Paul Desfarges, said the ceremony in the northwestern port city of Oran was “a way to highlight” the dedication of the 19 men and women who remained in the country during the violence.
“They did not hesitate to risk their lives because the most important thing for them was their relationship with others, rather than protecting themselves,” he told AFP.
Father Thomas Georgeon, who presented the case in Rome for the beatification, said it was the first time the Church would carry out such a ceremony in a Muslim country.
He insisted the move was not intended to “glorify the death of Christians at the hands of Muslims, but to mark their deaths alongside those of so many Algerian martyrs.”
The Algerian authorities in April officially gave the Vatican approval for the beatification to take place in the North African country.
The event will be presided over by Pope Francis’s envoy Angelo Becciu.
Archbishop Desfarges said he hoped the beatification would serve to reinforce the ties between the Catholic Church and the people of Algeria — just like the work of those being celebrated.
“We did not want to hold the beatification just among Christians as these brothers and sisters died alongside dozens and dozens of thousands of Algerians,” he said.
“We want to continue to be the church of friendship, brotherhood and coexistence.”


Israel cuts Gaza fishing limit after fire balloons

Updated 13 min 51 sec ago
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Israel cuts Gaza fishing limit after fire balloons

  • Israel reduced the fishing limit to 10 nautical miles
  • The countries agreed to 20 nautical miles in the Oslo accords of 1990s

JERUSALEM: Israel reduced the offshore fishing limits it imposes for vessels operating out of Gaza from Thursday after Palestinians floated balloons fitted with incendiaries over the border, officials said.
The cut came just two days after Israel restored the limits to those set in April ahead of an Israeli general election.
“A decision was taken this Wednesday evening to reduce the fishing zone off the Gaza Strip to 10 nautical miles until further notice,” said COGAT, the defense ministry unit that oversees such regulations.
“The decision was taken after the launch of incendiary balloons from Gaza toward Israel,” it added.
Palestinians in Gaza have frequently floated balloons fitted with firebombs over the border to damage Israeli property and have in the past succeeded in setting fire to large areas of farmland.
Israel banned fishing completely when two days of deadly violence erupted earlier this month, but lifted the ban with a restriction of up to 12 nautical miles following a truce.
The 15-nautical-mile limit that had been restored on Tuesday was the largest allowed in years by Israel, which has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in the enclave and has blockaded it for more than a decade.
But human rights activists note that it still falls short of the 20 nautical miles agreed under the Oslo accords of the 1990s.
Israeli authorities have not said whether the 15-mile limit was one of the understandings reached as part of the May 6 cease-fire in Gaza but Israel media reported on Monday that it was.
The additional nautical miles are important to Gaza fishermen as they bring more valuable, deeper water species within reach.
Four Israeli civilians and 25 Palestinians, including at least nine militants, were killed in this month’s exchanges across the border.