ALGERIA – Bishop Pierre Claverie and 18 of his companions were martyred between 1994 and 1996. This week, the Algerian bishops’ conference announced that their beatification will take place on December 8th at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Holy Cross in Oran.
Bishop Pierre Claverie was a French Roman Catholic. Born in Algeria, he realized that the French viewed native Algerians as second-class citizens. Pierre entered the Dominicans in his twenties. He began his service as bishop of Oran in 1981.
He dedicated his life to fostering ecumenical conversation with Muslims. Pierre strove for peace between the two faiths in Algeria. He also spent time learning the Islamic culture and mastering Arabic, and ran a center for Christian-Muslim dialogue.
The year before he died, he wrote: “The effect of God’s action among us is fraternal love that requires patience, goodness, mutual interest, and creative confidence. In our world, this is the Spirit’s greatest miracle—that people can look at us and say, ‘See how they love one another.'”
On August 1, 1996, Bishop Claverie and his Muslim friend, Mohamed Bouchikhi, were assassinated when a bomb went off at the entrance of the bishopric as the two friends entered the home around midnight.
The two men were returning from a meeting with the French Minister of Foreign Affairs where they had discussed how to keep the French residents of Algeria safe during the Algerian civil war.
At his funeral, Muslim mourners described Bishop Claverie as the “bishop of the Muslims.”
After the funeral, seven people were convicted of the killings and were given the death penalty. The Catholic Church in Algeria successfully petitioned the government to reduce the sentences and spare the assassins.
In September of this year, the Archbishop of Algiers and the Bishop of Oran met with Pope Francis in a private audience to discuss the cause. Pope Francis later went on to confirm the beatification of Bishop Claverie and his companions.