Wednesday 22 February 2017

A cleric's thoughtful response to an atrocity has a lesson for those who want to punish all Muslims

Robert Fisk

Published 29/07/2016 | 02:30

Faced with the murder and beheading of seven of his monks by Islamists 20 years ago, the Archbishop of Algiers went one better than the Archbishop of Rouen this week. He didn't talk about the slaughter of an elderly priest as the "unnameable". He saw the road to Calvary. In fear of his own life amid a ferocious conflict, Monseigneur Henri Teissier, 67 years old and a French professor of Arabic, responded all those years ago by celebrating Mass for six nuns and monks, reading from St Matthew, Chapter 25, verse 13: "Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh."

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The tiny congregation had originally gathered that day in 1996 to remember one of France's first religious martyrs in Algiers, Vicomte Charles de Foucauld, the soldier-turned-priest who was assassinated by an Islamist in Tamanrasset in 1916; his murder set an awful precedent for the killing of all French priests by those who claimed they were motivated by Islam.

Surely Father Jacques Hamel would have known of him. The Vicomte was killed only 14 years before he was born.

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