Church in Algeria Is Cautious Regarding Conversions to Catholicism

Long Period of Discernment of Candidates Is Necessary

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ROME, FEB. 22, 2003 ( Muslims in Algeria who wish to convert to Catholicism must be patient.

The Catholic Church is exacting and establishes three to four years of formation «to verify the truth of their quest and their solidity,» Father Bernard Lapize said during a conference at the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies.

Father Lapize, vicar general of the Algerian diocese of Oran, noted that «some candidates go to other, less-exacting Christian groups.»

But he defended the long catechization in the Catholic Church as a «way to discern if the petitioners really want to be Christians or if, on the contrary, they want to leave Algerian society and go to a more permissive West.»

«We accept the desire of those who come from Islam and wish to enter the Church, but with much attention to verify their motivations,» he stressed.

«People who are attracted to Christianity receive much criticism from the media,» Father Lapize said. He added, however, that «we are happy to live in Algeria; the friendship and acceptance of our brothers allows us to live.»

The vicar general said that calm has returned to Algeria, after living through a calvary that reached its culmination in 1997, when «the Church paid the price of its solidarity with the death of 18 priests and religious,» among them Bishop Pierre Claverie of Oran.

«The country is more tranquil and more stable and the religious life of Muslims is more civic,» he noted.

The Catholic Church in Algeria «forms part of the country,» the priest said, giving as examples «Caritas, the religious libraries and women’s workshops, which are fully accepted.»

«A recent talk on St. Augustine held in Algeria demonstrated that the country honors and integrates in its history a prestigious Christian personality,» he explained.

Father Lapize was pleased to hear that the Marist Brothers and Dominican priests want to establish new communities in Algeria.

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