LYON, France — Retired Archbishop Henri Teissier of Algiers, who dedicated his life to interreligious dialogue and the pastoral care of Algeria’s small Catholic community, died Dec. 1 in Lyon at the age of 91.
The archbishop had retired in 2008 after living through Algeria’s civil war and seeing fundamentalists kill thousands of his Muslim neighbors and dozens of Catholic religious men and women.
After retiring, he dedicated himself to promoting the memory of the Algerian martyrs and lived to see the beatification of 19 of them, who were murdered between 1994 and 1996. They included the seven Trappist monks of Tibhirine, kidnapped and killed in 1996, and Bishop Pierre Claverie of Oran, who was killed that same year when a bomb exploded at the entrance to his home.
Vatican News, reporting on Teissier’s death, noted that Dec. 1 was the feast of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, who lived among the Berbers in the Algeria desert and was murdered in 1916.
Archbishop Paul Desfarges, who succeeded Teissier, said he was certain that the late archbishop and Blessed Charles would meet in heaven.
The archbishop dying on Blessed Charles’ feast day, he said, is “a nod from heaven to our church in Algeria, which owes so much to Father Teissier” for his ministry during “the war of liberation, the independence of the country (and) the crossing of the dark years” of violence.
Born in Lyon July 21, 1929, he was ordained to the priesthood in Algiers in 1955. He served as bishop of Oran from 1973 to 1980, when he was named coadjutor archbishop of Algiers, a position he held for an unusual eight years before becoming archbishop.