Murder of the monks of Tibhirine

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Martyrs of Atlas
Died 21 May 1996, Tibhirine, Algeria
Martyred by Armed Islamic Group or regular Algerian Army[1]
Notable martyrs Christian de Chergé, Brother Luc (born Paul Dochier), Father Christophe (Lebreton), Brother Michel (Fleury), Father Bruno (born Christian Lemarchand), Father Célestin (Ringeard), and Brother Paul (Favre-Miville)
Tibhirine Monastery

On the night of 26–27 March 1996, seven monks from the Atlas Abbey of Tibhirine, near Médéa, Algeria, belonging to the Roman Catholic Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (known as Trappists) were kidnapped during the Algerian Civil War. They were held for two months, and found dead in late May 1996. The circumstances of their kidnapping and death remain controversial; the Armed Islamic Group (Groupe Islamique Armé, GIA) claimed responsibility for both, but in 2009, retired General François Buchwalter reported that the monks were killed by the Algerian army.[2]

Circumstances[edit]

At approximately 1:15 AM on 27 March 1996, about twenty armed members of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) arrived at the monastery of Tibhirine and kidnapped seven monks. Two others, Father Jean-Pierre and Father Amédée, were in separate rooms and escaped the kidnappers' notice. After the kidnappers left, the remaining monks attempted to contact the police, but found that the telephone lines had been cut. As there was a curfew in force, they had to wait until morning to drive to the police station in Médéa.[3]

photo approved for public release by the Postulator of the cause of the Algerian Martyrs = Fr. Thomas Georgeon OCSO Trappist Cistercian monk
Prayer card of a Tibhirine OCSO monk Atlas Martyr

On 18 April, the GIA's communiqué no. 43 announced that they would release the monks in exchange for Abdelhak Layada, a former GIA leader who had been arrested three years earlier. On 30 April, a tape with the voices of the kidnapped monks, recorded on 20 April, was delivered to the French Embassy in Algiers. On 23 May, the GIA's communiqué no. 44 reported that they had executed the monks on 21 May. The Algerian government announced that their heads had been discovered on May 31; the whereabouts of their bodies is unknown. The funeral Mass for the monks was celebrated in the Catholic Cathedral of Notre-Dame d'Afrique (Our Lady of Africa) in Algiers on Sunday, 2 June 1996. Their remains were buried in the cemetery of the monastery at Tibhirine two days later.[3]

The surviving two monks of Tibhirine left Algeria and traveled to a Trappist monastery near Midelt in Morocco.[4]

The monks[edit]

Prayer card of Fr Christophe Lebreton OCSO Atlas Martyr

All of the murdered monks were French. They were: Dom Christian de Chergé, Brother Luc (born Paul Dochier), Father Christophe (Lebreton), Brother Michel (Fleury), Father Bruno (born Christian Lemarchand), Father Célestin (Ringeard), and Brother Paul (Favre-Miville).[5]

Accusations against Algerian army[edit]

In 2008, La Stampa reported that an anonymous high-ranking Western government official, based in Algeria at the time of the murders, had told them that the kidnapping was orchestrated by a DRS-infiltrated GIA group, but that the monks had been killed accidentally by an Algerian military helicopter which attacked the camp where they were being held captive.[6]

In July 2009, the retired French general François Buchwalter, who was military attaché in Algeria at the time, testified to a judge that the monks had been accidentally killed by an Algerian government helicopter during an attack on a guerrilla position, then beheaded after their death to make it appear as though the GIA had killed them.[2][7][8]

The day after Buchwalter's statement, former GIA leader Abdelhak Layada — who was in prison when the monks were killed — responded by reiterating the claim that the GIA had beheaded the monks after a breakdown of negotiations with the French secret service.[9]

Martyrs of Algeria[edit]

The 7 monks of the Our Lady of the Atlas, who were kidnapped and later beheaded, have been included with 12 other Algerian martyrs, to be beatified on December 8, 2018.[10] The celebration will occur in Oran, Algeria.[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Crumley, Bruce (16 July 2009). "Could Seven Dead Monks Upset President Nicolas Sarkozy's Bold Plans To Remake France's Legal System?". Time. 
  2. ^ a b "Algerian army accused in massacre of French monks". France 24. 7 July 2009. Archived from the original on 7 July 2009. 
  3. ^ a b Veilleux, Armand (31 December 2002). "The death of the monks of Tibhirine: facts, questions, and hypotheses". [unreliable source?]
  4. ^ Notre Dame de l'Atlas Archived 25 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Pennington, M. Basil (December 1996). "Cistercian Martyrs of Algeria, 1996". lovingjustwise.com. Retrieved 2 November 2017. 
  6. ^ Pellizzari, Valerio (6 July 2008). "I monaci in Algeria uccisi dai militari" (in French). Algeria-Watch. 
  7. ^ "Sarkozy to release details about beheaded monks in Algeria". The Irish Times.  (subscription required)
  8. ^ Bensouiah, Azzeddine (8 July 2009). "Sarkozy accuse l'Algérie de mensonges" (in French). Algeria-Watch. 
  9. ^ "GIA executed French monks in Algeria in 1996: former chief". AFP. 9 July 2009. 
  10. ^ "Martyred Tibhirine monks to be beatified". The Tablet. September 14, 2018. Retrieved September 15, 2018. 
  11. ^ Wooden, Cindy (September 14, 2018). "Algerian martyrs to be beatified in Algeria Dec. 8". Catholic News Service. Retrieved September 15, 2018. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Kiser, John W. (2002). The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love, and Terror in Algeria. St. Martin's Griffin. New York. ISBN 978-0-3122-5317-2.
  • Derwahl, Freddy. (2013). The Last Monk of Tibhirine: A True Story of Martyrdom, Faith, and Survival. Paraclete Press. Brewster, MA. ISBN 978-1-6126-1374-1.
  • Salenson, Christian. (2012). Christian De Cherge: A Theology of Hope. Cistercian Publications. Trappist, Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8790-7247-6.
  • Georgeon, Thomas ; Henning, Christophe ; Akasleh, Khaled (2018) Nos vies sont déjà données! : 19 vies pour Dieu et l'Algérie : le martyre de Mgr Clavere, des moines de Tibhirine et de onze religieuses et religieux Montrouge. Bayard ISBN 978-2227492752
  • Lassausse, Jean-Marie ; Teissier, Henri ; Georgeon, Thomas (2018) N'oublions pas Tibhirine ! : quinze ans avec les martyrs de l'Atlas Montrouge. Bayard DL ISBN 9782227492707

Coordinates: 36°17′44″N 2°42′56″E / 36.29556°N 2.71556°E / 36.29556; 2.71556