ORAN, Algeria — A cardinal dispatched by the Vatican is holding a beatification ceremony for 19 monks, nuns and other Catholics who were killed during Algeria’s civil war in the 1990s.

Pope Francis recognized all 19 as martyrs in January, paving the way for Saturday’s ceremony in the Algerian city of Oran. Beatification is a step in the process of being declared a saint.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, is celebrating Saturday’s Mass at the Notre Dame de Santa Cruz basilica as the pope’s special envoy.

The French monks were kidnapped from the monastery of Tibhirine, south of Algiers, in 1996. A radical group was blamed for their beheadings, but some observers have suggested Algeria’s military was responsible.

The Algerian president agreed to allow the ceremony in Algeria despite continued tensions over the deaths.