On Saturday, December 8, Br. Henri Vergès, a French Marist Brother, was beatified in Rome (i.e. he was declared “Blessed,” the final step before sainthood).
Br. Henri was born in France in 1930, and worked in Algeria from 1969 until his death in 1994, first as a teacher, and then as a librarian. In addition to his ministry to young people, Br. Henri was a very active member of Ribât al-Salaam, an Algerian organization that promotes dialogue and reconciliation between Christians and Muslims.
Br. Henri ran a library in Algiers from 1988 to 1994, along with Sr. Paul Hélène, a French nun of the Little Sisters of the Assumption. In 1991, the Algerian Civil War broke out, in which roughly fifty thousand people were killed over the course of ten years. During this time, everyday Br. Henri’s library was filled with children and young people, for whom the library was a safe place and a refuge from the chaos in the country. Despite the violence, Br. Henri and Sr. Paul Hélène chose to stay in Algiers to continue their ministry. On May 8, 1994 they were both gunned down in the library by the GIA, a militant Islamist group.
On December 8, Br. Henri and Sr. Paul Hélène will be beatified, along with seventeen other Catholic religious martyred in the Algerian Civil War. To honor the event, on Friday, December 7, all religion classes attended prayer services held in the ARC throughout the day.
If you would like more information on Br. Henri, there is a page dedicated to him on the Marist Brothers’ website. Also, in 2010 an excellent French film called Of Gods and Men was made about a monastery of Trappist monks who were also killed in the Algeria Civil War and are among those being beatified on December 8.
Information provided by Brother Sam Amos of the Marist High School Religion Department.