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Algerian Archbishop Remembered for Courage, Love for Country Laid to Rest

Late Archbishop Henri Teissier.

The late Archbishop emeritus of Algiers in Algeria, Henri Teissier, who was laid to rest Wednesday, December 9 is being eulogized for his courage and love for the North African nation.

Archbishop Teissier who succumbed to a stroke attack December 1 aged 91 was laid to rest at the Sacred Heart Cathedral of Algiers. 

“He did not perceive his life outside of Algeria,” Fr. Jose Maria Cantal Rivas, Rector of Our Lady of Africa Basilica has been quoted as saying during the Funeral Mass Tuesday, December 8, the eve of the Archbishop’s burial. 

Making reference to the 1990s when 19 Christians were murdered, including Bishop Pierre Lucien Claverie and seven monks of Tibhirine, Fr. Rivas recalled that Archbishop Teissier chose to remain in the country amid the insecurity. 

Fr. Rivas recalled the late Archbishop as having said, “You don't abandon a friend when he is suffering; even if you can't cure him, you stay by his side, you take his hand and suffer with him, even if you have no solutions.”

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Fr. Archbishop Teissier, Fr. Rivas went on to recall, “It was inconceivable to leave Algeria.”

Bishop Jean-Paul Vesco of Algeria’s Oran Diocese also recalled the late Archbishop’s courage during the country’s civil war.

“Like Mary at the foot of the cross, Henri's heart was pierced 19 times by a sword. But like Mary in the Cenacle, this trial did not destroy his hope against all hope. The pastor, bruised to the soul, remained standing, for the community,” La Croix quoted Bishop Vesco as saying.

“I keep the image of a pastor, marked by the violence of the dark years,” Bishop Vesco said and further recalled, “Very often, when he touched this wound during a homily or an intervention, he would stop, tears would flow, and he would gently resume his words.” 

Bishop Vesco went on to eulogize the late Archbishop as a role “model” saying, “He was of impressive intelligence, memory and culture; these qualities were matched by a profound humanity, a quality of presence, relationship and humor.”

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To Bishop Vesco, Archbishop Teissier “was modest and perhaps even a little secretive, and never stood in the way of a relationship.”

Born in Lyon, France, the late Archbishop was ordained a Priest for Algiers Archdiocese in 1955. Eleven years later, he received the Algerian citizenship.

Pope Paul VI appointed him Bishop of Oran in 1972. In 1980, Pope John Paul II appointed him the coadjutor Archbishop of Algiers.

He was appointed the Archbishop of Algiers in 1988, remaining at the helm of the Archdiocese until 2008 when Pope Benedict XVI accepted his resignation.

In a telegram message sent on the day of his demise, Pope Francis said he had learnt “with sadness” about the Archbishop’s death.  

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The Pontiff remembered the Archbishop emeritus of Algiers as “a generous pastor who was able to go through the trying times experienced by the Church of Algeria with courage and an evangelical spirit,” and as a “man of dialogue and peace” who worked for a “respectful and fraternal unity between the Algerian people.”