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Theatre play on Brother Henri Vergès

12/08/2016: France

Brothers and laity took part in the provincial chapter of l’Hermitage Province on Wednesday, Aug. 3, at Notre-Dame de l’Hermitage. Brothers and friends also attended the first play titled “The fifth Gospel, correspondence of Henri Vergès.”

The words of the title are from Brother Henri, spoken 10 years before his death and reminded by Brother Christian de Chergé, prior of the Trappist monastery of Notre-Dame Atlas in Tibhirine : “Christ must shine through us. The fifth Gospel that the whole world can read is of our life.” (Cf. Du Capcir à la Casbah, p. 109)  

Actor Jean-Baptiste Germain, assisted by the director of the work, Francesco Agnello, recited for an hour the written text by Brother Adrien Candiard, Dominican, author of the dialogues of the play “Pierre and Mohamed,” a play that recalls the death of Pierre Claverie, bishop of Oran (Argelia), and his young driver, on Aug. 1, 1996. This play, created for the festival of Avignon in 2011, is being successful with over 650 representations.

Adrien Candiard, inspired in the life and writings of our Brother Henri, imagined the person of Ahmed, an old student of Henri in the school of Sour-El Ghozlane. Ahmed, who works as a young diplomat in Damascus, establishes a lengthy correspondence with his former mathematics teacher.

Through seven letters – four from Ahmed and three from Henri – the viewers discover the essential features of the religious educator that brother Henri was: his love for youth, especially his students, a love rooted in Jesus and Mary; their respect for each other; his concern for accompanying the weakest; his cheerful availability in the service of all; his willingness to dialogue; his love for work; his willingness to inculturate (study of Arabic and Quran reading); his simple and poor life style; his desire to help young Argelians love their country…

During the play, the congregation remained intensively focused at the Saint Joseph courtyard, an ideal place for this premiere. A lengthy warm applause thanking Jean-Baptiste and Francesco reflected the emotion of the whole assembly. Everyone was under a sort of charm and the shock at the quality of the clear and strong text that expressed with truth, strength and simplicity. The interaction that then followed between the two actors and the audience, allowed some free heartfelt expression of their gratitude.

Jean-Baptiste and Francesco told us how they had been deeply moved by the depth of the religious life of Brother Henri and his great qualities as an educator. They also shared that they had greatly appreciated the welcome in Notre-Dame de l'Hermitage.

Thanks to Brother Maurice, provincial who is finishing his term, for having been present since the beginning of the production. He has offered a good gift to his successor and his province. From now on, we must hope that the play reaches as many viewers since it is an evangelisation tool for both youths and adults. Through the life of Brother Henri, It will also remind us of the 19 martyrs of the Church of Algeria. His beatification cause began during the great jubilee year 2000, on May 8, sixth anniversary of Henri’s death, by the Archbishop of Algiers, Archbishop Henri Tessier.

 

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Br Alain Delorme

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