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28 January

Saint Thomas Aquinas
1947, the first Marist Brothers left to begin work in Portugal

Marist Calendar - January

8 May 2014



20th anniversary of the death of Brother Henri Vergés

08/05/2014: General House

On 8 May 1994, Brother Henri Vergès was murdered in Algeria, in his office in the library of Ben Cheneb Street in  Algiers, together with the Little Sister Paul-Hélène. Twenty years after his death, we  place before you the conclusion of the preface written by Mgr Henri Teissier, Archbishop of Algiers, for the book of Robert Masson, published in 2004 in the series « Parole et Silence » : « Henri Vergès, a Christian in the house of Islam ».  This preface, which is a testimony, is entitled « A Gospel path ».

"I would like above all to underline Henri’s exceptional fidelity to his vocation as religious and educator. During the hours we tried to discern together how to live the stages of his life from 1981 to 1994, I never saw him desire anything other than the practice of this fidelity to his vocation as a Marist teaching brother.

Each of the nineteen victims of our community, during the Algerian crisis, illustrates a type of fidelity to his or her vocation, Pierre Claverie as bishop and Dominican, the Brothers of Tibhirine as Trappists in the Moslem rural world, the Sisters, each in their quarter, with the spiritual affinities proper to their charism. But Henri Vergès, in this family of our martyrs, gives a truly specific witness. He incarnates the fidelity to his double vocation of Marist religious and educator, without it being possible to find in his life, a single instant, a single preoccupation, a single thought, which is not ordered to this vocation. All this founded on an exceptional fidelity to his life of prayer and a very strong relationship with his  congregation.

As he became inserted into Algeria, he also matured another harmonic in this fidelity. His life as a Marist religious and educator became a life in Moslem Algeria, for the Algerians and with the Algerians. The mounting perils, of which he was aware, changed nothing in this fundamental orientation, but added a willingness for spiritual solidarity with Islam and the Moslems, for which the  Ribat would help him draw the whole meaning. His friendships, in particular with Brother Christian, the monks and the other members of the Ribat, deepened this call in him.

When violence took Henri from us, it seemed to us that it had struck in him, our vocation in its most perfect realisation. None of those who knew him could discern in his choices and the use of his time, anything other than the constantly renewed decision to do the will of God, according to his vocation, and according to the spiritual orientations given him by his existence in Algeria. Perhaps it is this correspondance, in him, between the vocation received and everyday life that they wanted to strike at. In striking at him, they struck at our ideal in one of its most impressive realisations. They struck at our mission itself. It is perhaps this which has enabled us to rediscover this mission, on emerging from the crisis, as clearly present in our Church and better recognised than ever by our Moslem Algerian friends, or at least those who believe with us in a future of spiritual dialogue between the two communities. A future we did not know in 1994 that we could live with more fullness still in 2004 than we had ever done before. The sacrifice of Henri Vergès, of Paul-Hélène, and all their companions  subsequently have given our Church a new foundation."

Henri Teissier, Archbishop of Algiers

Mgr Henri Teissier, a accepté de participer aux deux journées organisées par le diocèse de Perpignan, avec le concours de la Fraternité « Le Ribat » d’Espira-de-l’Agly, les 17 et 18 mai prochain, pour commémorer le 20ème anniversaire de la Pâque de notre frère Henri. Qu’il en soit vivement remercié.

Frère Alain Delorme

Read more about B. Henri Vergès

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