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Catholic Dictionary




Ancient shrine at Algiers, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. It was originally a small statue of the Madonna, set in a frame of shells at a spot often visited by Barbary robbers. Fishermen came there to pray for sage voyages. In time, the grotto became a chapel and eventually a large church. A great miracle made the revered chapel even better known. Archbishop Lavigerie of Algiers was on his way to Rome accompanied by seven hundred soldiers, priests, and a Trappist abbot when their ship was caught in a violent storm. The crew despaired of the ship's safety. The archbishop had promised the Mother of God a pilgrimage to the shrine of "Our Lady of Africa" if she would save them. the ship was saved and the promise was kept. In 1872 an impressive cathedral was consecrated and now houses the crowned statue of Mary. Pope Pius IX donated the golden diadem with precious stones that Mary, "Consolation of the Afflicted," now wears. At the shrine there are as many Moslem pilgrims as Christian. To the faithful Moslem she is "Lala Meriem," who bestows her favors. The Holy See has entrusted the care of the sanctuary to the congregation of White Sisters of Africa.