Algeria clears beatification in Oran for massacred French monks

Paris (AFP) –


Algeria has given the Vatican its approval for the beatification in Oran of seven French Trappist monks killed by Islamic insurgents in 1996, the country's top diplomat said Tuesday.

"The beatification will take place in a few months, in the coming weeks, in Oran," Foreign Minister Abdelkader Messahel told France 24 television.

The Holy See declared in January that the monks were martyrs for their faith, along with 12 other clergy slain in Algeria between 1994 and 1996 during a bloody civil war, including Bishop Pierre Claverie of Oran.

The move cleared the way for beatification, the first step toward a possible sainthood.

Asked if Pope Francis would attend the ceremony, Messahel replied: "We'll see, why not?"

On the night of March 26-27, 1996, the group of monks aged 42-82 were abducted from the Priory of Our Lady of Atlas in Tibhirine, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) southwest of Algiers, by members of the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria (GIA).

The Vatican said the monks were murdered "in odium fidei", or out of hatred for the faith.

The tragedy inspired a 2010 French film, "Des Hommes et des Dieux", (Of Gods and Men) starring Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale. It won the Grand Prix at the Cannes film festival that year.