Saint Augustine of Hippo will keep on appearing in these pages! Today would be his feast if it were not Sunday, so we are spending the week with the Church in Algeria, his home country. Algeria is, of course, a Muslim country, with a small Christian population, largely in the towns and cities, and for the most part its members are expatriates.
During the French occupation there were many more Christians, and important churches were built, including the Basilica of Saint Augustine at Hippo which was restored recently, with help from the Algerian government and supporters around the world.
Algeria takes pride in this son of the land, witness this postage stamp! Follow the link below to read about the reopening of the basilica.
Here is some of what Cardinal Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, had to say about Augustine as pastor rather than theologian or philosopher:
‘Living together as believers, being confronted with the same problems and difficulties… this spontaneity of relations is at the bottom of all dialogue and interreligious dialogue is always founded on friendship: we must always strive to know one another, to love one another, to move forward together.
[The Algerian people] has taken responsibility for its history”. It has “recognized that Augustine was Algerian … and what an Algerian he was! A genius who bridged the gulf of the two Mediterranean coasts. Saint Augustine wrote some of the most beautiful pages of theology while the city of Hippo was under siege. At the same time, he showered his care on refugees of war. He was a pastor who followed the daily life of his flock.”
For the cardinal, the basilica of St. Augustine “is a powerful sign, especially in a Muslim country where prayer plays such an important role.” It reminds everyone that “Christians too, evident in the majesty of this church, praise the Lord, the one God, and that they are faithful to their responsibilities.” It also reminds us that “there is no future unless there is a shared future.”
He insisted that churches “must always remain open so that they may welcome those who are looking for the quiet to think and reflect, to pray, and to remind all citizens that man does not live on bread alone”.