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Catholic World News News Feature

Trappists plan return to Algeria February 27, 2007

A group of Trappist monks plans to return to Algeria, following an 11-year absence, to establish a new community.

The monks left the country for Morocco in 1996, after the murder of 7 French Trappists.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon shared the news with reporters during a visit to the monks’ graves at Our Lady of Atlas monastery. The now-abandoned monastery is located near Medea, about 45 miles south of Algiers. The cardinal called for prayers for this new effort, especially since previous attempts at establishing a new community have failed.

Cardinal Barbarin was on a tour of the country with Azzedine Gaci, the president of the Rhone-Alpes Regional Muslim Council, in an effort to promote inter-religious understanding. Both men led prayers in the monastery’s courtyard, calling for brotherhood and dialogue.

In the 1990s, the Trappists at Our Lady of Atlas monastery-- the only monastery in Algeria-- decided to stay on despite threats against them by militants. Seven were eventually abducted in March 1996 and killed two months later by the guerrillas of the Armed Islamic Group, after France refused to negotiate the release of Algerian-Islamist detainees. The monks had worked among the people in the poor district. They had provided free medical care, a service that is now deeply missed by the locals.

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