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Marist Calendar - September

Br. Henri Vergès and the Algerian martyrs



The cause of the martyrs of Algeria: meeting of the historians’ commission

13/10/2009: General House

From 2 to 5 September 2009, the commission of historians for the cause of the martyrs of Algeria met at the general house of the Trappists, Rome.

This commission is composed of three historians: Father Jean Jacques Pérennès, Dominican and president of the commission, Father Ivo Dujardin, Trappist, and Mr A. Jomier, a young historian who has done much work in Algeria.

The work of the historians consists in discovering the maximum number of documents about the person of the martyr and about the context in which he/she lived. The personal documents include everything from the birth certificate to the death certificate, and also the various academic diplomas, identity card, passport… All the writings of the martyr, published and unpublished: books, articles, letters… And the maximum of what has been said about the martyr before, during and after death in the media and in books.

When one considers that the cause counts 19 martyrs, one of them a bishop who preached and wrote extensively, as well as 7 Trappist monks who have been the subject of many books and hundreds of articles… the mass of documents becomes enormous. And all that will be included in the dossier of the cause.

The commission of historians must make a report on the work done, the archives and libraries inspected, and, above all, paint a human portrait of each martyr. Then each historian is called by the diocesan tribunal and questioned on his knowledge of the martyrs.

The work of the historians is one of the most important in a cause: they restore the historical depth so that each martyr is caught in a net of deeds and documents, which prove and announce his/her humanity.

The work of the theologians is different: they read the published and private works of a confessor or a martyr, to see if they are in conformity with the teaching of the Church, and end with the spiritual portrait of the candidate for canonisation. They do not need to look for documents.

For us, what is important, apart from the curiousity of knowing how these people work, is the knowledge that we have of our saints, the place we have for them in our affection, the imitation that follows on from that.

The cause of the martyrs of Algeria is still in its first stages, at the level of the diocese… Our pace is fast, but the road is long.

Br. Giovanni Maria Bigotto

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