[Province of North Africa] On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of making the church of St. Augustine into a Basilica there was a pilgrimage and Eucharistic celebration on May 2 which we attended. For this little Catholic community, in the midst of Muslim believers, it was remarkable to be able to celebrate our faith with such solemnity.
Hippo is an ancient Roman port city in the east of Algeria, near the border with Tunisia. It was here that St. Augustine wrote his great works, was pastor, judge and advocat for the poor, and servant of the Church. His philosophy and theology radiated from here over the long centuries. This illustrious Bishop crossed over Numidia and took part in the great Church debates of the 4th century in Carthage. Several years before, he was born in that Algerian land at Thagaste in Numidia, what is today Souk-Ahras. The son of a Roman patrician and a Berber mother, he studied and taught in his native land before going to Milan to continue his brilliant career in rhetoric. Once he discovered the Love of God he never stopped singing the God of Love with his whole being.
On top of the hill of Hippo (today ANNABA) is the Basilica of Saint Augustine, recently restored. There is where we made the pilgrimage. We left our house in Constantinople at five thirty in the morning in order to join the pilgrims of the small communities of Algeria as well as those of France, Italy and others. Everyone came to the Feast to show the unity and universality of the Church and the support of our mission in an Isalmist land, mission of dialogue, peace and the love of God for all of humanity.
The sub-saharan students, Christians of the country, all the participants did their best to make the day a success. The pilgrims were welcomed and walked up to the Basilica accompanied by the meditation on six texts of Saint Augustine. The Mass was presided by Cardiinal Jean Louis Tauran, special envoy of the Pope and president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Also around the altar were the Apostolic Nuncio, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, Bishop Paul Desarges, bishop of Hippo and Constantinople, the Bishops of the other three dioceses of Algeria as well as three emeritus Bishops of the country, two from Marseille and about twenty priests. We sang and celebrated our faith and Cardinal Tauran exhorted us to continue in the spirit of Saint Augustine to search for Truth, Love and Beauty for the good of all humans. Said in another way, we are to build a more humaine and fraternal world.
A snack gave us the energy to continue the day with a conference on the work of the restoration of the building and the organ. This was followed by a presentation by a Moslem professor with a knowledge of Saint Augustine – the man and his work. A conference by Cardinal Tauran was on the importance of dialogue among religions telling us that to be able to dialogue it is necessary to know and understand the suffering of others by making it ours.
In following this giant of the Chrch, we want to live as Daughters of Charity who witness to the love of God for all those who are poor whom we serve in this land of North Africa.
“…It is in speaking of the heavenly Jerusalem that Psalm 122 says: And now our feet are standing within your gates, Jerusalem!
Those who enter it are living stones.” (St. Augustine)