Below you will find the complete text of the homily of Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and Special Envoy of the Holy Father, as pronounced during the celebration of the beatification of the 19 martyrs of Algeria at the Shrine of Our Lady of Santa Cruz d’Oran:
Dear brothers and sisters !
The passage of Apocalypse (Rev. 7:9-17), proclaimed in the second reading, introduces us to the “immense crowd” (v.9) of those who have already reached the goal of eternal salvation towards which we are all on the road: the kingdom of hope, the kingdom of those who see God as He is. The Apostle John in his vision rich in symbols sees them standing in front of the throne of God, “dressed in white robes”, the colour of divine light and paschal glory. But the whiteness of the robes is obtained by plunging them into the red blood of Christ: these elect have experienced the “great trial; they have washed their robes, they have whitened them with the blood of the Lamb “(v.14). The splendour is reached through the crucible of suffering, of self-giving, of the cross. By participating in the passion and death of Jesus, the king of martyrs, we reach the light: per crucem ad lucem (by the cross to the light) says the ancient Christian saying. In this way “what remains to suffer from the trials of Christ in my own flesh, I fulfil it for his body which is the Church” (Col 1:24) underlines St. Paul.
Those saved hold in their hands a palm, which in the Old Testament is the sign of triumph and acclamation; the suffering, the rigorous engagement of the testimony, the renunciation of oneself do not lead to death but introduce into the glory; they do not produce failure but life and happiness. The scene of the Apocalypse then shows the mighty chorus of saints singing with a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and the Lamb” (Rev 7:10).
The text of the Apocalypse has thus traced to us the portrait of the blessed and the saint: it belongs only to God, it appears in every point of the earth and at every period of history, it lives with fidelity even in the ordeal In traversing the way of the cross, he reaches the glorious goal of eternity, where he will live forever in joy, in song, in glory, in that infinite whirlwind of light and peace, which is God.
In the immense crowd of those who have reached a fate of glory, the Church wants to call today by name 19 new Blessed, killed between 1994 and 1996 in different places and times but in the same restless context. On this earth, here in Algeria, they announced the Lord’s unconditional love for the poor and the outcast, testifying to their belonging to Christ and the Church to the point of martyrdom. It is beautiful to think now that they are among those who have gone through “the great trial and have washed their robes and have bleached them with the blood of the Lamb” (verse 14). Coming from eight different Institutes, our brothers and sisters lived in this country where they performed various missions; they were strong and persevering in their service of the Gospel and the people, despite the threatening climate of violence and oppression that surrounded them. Reading their biographies we are struck by the fact that everyone, well aware of the risk they run, courageously decided to stay on the spot until the end; in them has developed a strong spirituality of martyrdom rooted in the prospect of sacrificing themselves and offering their lives for a society of reconciliation and peace.
Blessed Pierre Claverie and his 18 companions and companions martyrs carry on them the salvific seal of the Redemption of Christ. By inscribing their names in the book of the saved and blessed, the Church wishes to recognise the exemplarity of their virtuous life, the heroism of the death of these extraordinary peacemakers and witnesses of fraternity, and at the same time , to pay the highest homage to Jesus, Redeemer of man. In Christ, the Church desires to worship the living God: since the glory of God is the man who receives from him the fullness of life.
This fullness of life, the Virgin Mary – whose Immaculate Conception we are celebrating today – has experienced it in an incomparable way, when the Archangel Gabriel announced to her that she had found favour with God and that by the action of the Holy Spirit she would conceive of Jesus, the Son of the Most High. “Rejoice, full of grace: the Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28). We too, today, contemplating these new Blessed, are invited to overcome all narrow-mindedness and to rejoice, because in them we see the mystery of the eternal sanctity of God shine forth; holiness which is offered to us through a new actualisation of the Gospel by our martyrs who witnessed it until the shedding of blood. We remember them as faithful followers of Christ who loved poverty, who were sensitive to suffering and caring for the abandoned, who took part in the anguish and affliction of their brethren. These heroic witnesses to the love of Jesus have gone to the very root of the experience that man has of his own limits: humiliation, tears, persecution.
They fully complied with the sacrifice of Christ who, according to the prophet Isaiah, identified himself with the suffering Servant of the Lord; he who, as we have heard in the first reading, offering himself “as a sacrifice of reparation, […] as a result of his torments, will see the light and justify the multitudes” (Is 53:10b.-11). This happens precisely by the Cross, since in the death of Jesus God has definitely become close to humanity and man has become fully conscious of his dignity and elevation. By their death as martyrs, the new Blessed also entered into the light of God, and from above they watch over the persons whom they have served and loved, praying unceasingly for all, even for those who have them. struck. They continue this prophetic mission of mercy and forgiveness, which they have witnessed during their earthly life. May their example inspire in all the desire to promote what Pope Francis has defined as “the culture of mercy that gives birth to a true revolution” (Apostolic Letter Misericordia et misera, 20 Nov. 2016). By welcoming the dynamic of forgiveness, admirably experienced by the new Blessed, we hope that Algeria can definitely overcome this terrible period of violence and misery and we pray for it!
The tragic death of Blessed Peter Claverie and his 18 companions and companions martyrs is a seed fallen in the ground in difficult times, fertilised by suffering that will bring fruits of reconciliation and justice. This is our mission as Christians: to sow every day the seeds of evangelical peace, to enjoy the fruits of justice. By this beatification we would say to Algeria as a whole only this: the Church wants nothing more than to serve the Algerian people, testifying to her love for all.
In all parts of the world, Christians are motivated by the desire to contribute concretely to build a bright future of hope through the wisdom of peace, to build a society based on mutual respect, collaboration, and love. Such a society can be fully realised if everyone strives to develop the pedagogy of forgiveness, if necessary also in this country.
The Christian community in this country is spreading small but significant seeds of peace. Through this Beatification, she can feel comforted in her presence in Algeria; by these 19 martyrs, strengthen her belief that her precious presence near this people is justified by the desire to be a light and sign of the love of God for the whole population.
The luminous witness of these Blessed is a living and close example for all. Their life and their death is a direct call to all of us Christians, and especially to you, brothers or sisters in religious life, to be faithful at all costs to your own vocation, serving the Gospel and the Church in a lifetime. true fraternity, perseverance and witness to the radical choice of God.
I can not end without expressing deep gratitude to the religious congregations to which our brothers belonged as well as to their natural families who have suffered so much from their loss, but who now can rejoice with the whole Church to know them blessed in heaven. We are all comforted by the certainty that our martyred brothers and sisters, by their sacrifice, by their constant intercession and by their protection, will produce on this earth abundant fruits of goodness and fraternal sharing.
For this we address them and say: Blessed Peter Claverie and his companions and companions martyrs, pray for us!
[Original text: French]