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Charles de FOUCAULD

French Charles de FOUCAULD

born Charles Eugène de FOUCAULD

Catholic religious and priest living among the Tuareg in the Sahara in Algeria

Source :  Jean SCHUSTER

Born: on September 15, 1858 in Strasbourg, France
Died: on December 01, 1916 in Tamanrasset, Algeria


Biography

Born in Strasbourg, he grew up in a family which was a part of the French aristocracy and entered the Saint-Cyr Military Academy in 1876. He later was a French army officer in Algeria but left the army in 1882 and went as an explorer to Morocco (1883-1884).

In 1890 he joined the Cistercian Trappist order first in France and then at Akbès in Syria, but left in 1897 to follow an undefined religious vocation in Nazareth. He began to lead a solitary life of prayer, near a convent of Poor Clares and it was suggested to him that he be ordained. In 1901 at the age of 43 he was ordained in Viviers, France and returned to the Sahara in Algeria and lived a virtually eremetical life. He first settled in Beni Abbes, near the Moroccan border, building a small hermitage for ‘adoration and hospitality’, which soon became the ‘Fraternity’. For Charles wished to be, and was seen to be, a “brother” to each and every visitor, whatever their religion, ethnic origin or social status. Later he moved to be with the Tuareg people, in Tamanghasset in southern Algeria. This region is the central part of the Sahara with the Ahaggar Mountains (the Hoggar) immediately to the west. Charles used the highest point, the Assekrem, as a place of retreat. Living close to the Tuareg, and sharing their life and hardships, he made a ten-year study of their language and cultural traditions. He learned the language and worked on a dictionary and grammar. His dictionary manuscript was published posthumously in 4 volumes and has become known among Berberologues for its rich and apt descriptions. He formulated the idea of founding a new religious order, which only became a reality after his death, under the name of the Little Brothers of Jesus. (See also: Louis Massignon)

On December 1, 1916, he was shot to death outside his Tamanrasset compound, by passing marauders connected with the Senussi Bedouin; this act is to be seen against the general background of the uprising against French colonial power, World War I and famine in the Hoggar. He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on November 13, 2005 and is listed as a martyr in the liturgy of the Catholic Church.

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