Oran, Dec 8 (AFP) The Catholic Church beatified in the city of Oran on Saturday seven French monks and 12 other clergy killed during Algeria's civil war, the first ceremony of its kind in a Muslim nation.
May "Monsignor Pierre Claverie... and his 18 companions, faithful messengers of the Gospel, humble artisans of peace... from now on be called blessed," said papal envoy Cardinal Angelo Becciu, reading the decree of beatification, the first step on the path to Roman Catholic sainthood.
Claverie, 58, was killed with his driver on August 1, 1996 when a remote-controlled bomb exploded at his residence in Oran.
He was among 19 clergy to be beatified, after their murders in a series of grisly atrocities between 1994 and 1996.
The ceremony was held under tight security at the esplanade of the Chapel of our Lady of Santa Cruz overlooking the Mediterranean city.
Some 1,200 people attended the ceremony, including pilgrims, relatives and friends of the beatified, many of whom came from abroad.
A minute of silence was then observed.
Algeria's 1991-2002 war between government forces and Islamists left up to 200,000 people dead.
Pope Francis himself spoke of the beatification in prayers at Saint Peter's Square in the Vatican on Saturday.
"May this beatification be an incentive for all to build a world of fraternity and solidarity together," the pope said. (AFP) SCY
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