Pope contributes to restoration of Algerian basilica

February 21, 2012

ROME

Pope Benedict XVI is among those contributing to the restoration of the Basilica of St. Augustine in Annaba, Algeria, in a project that the Vatican said is “a symbol of the brotherhood between Christians and Muslims,” Vatican Radio reported.

Church officials were careful to point out that the contribution, which was not quantified, was from Benedict directly and also through the “Papal Foundation,” but not by the Vatican itself.

The 112-year-old church was built on a hill overlooking the ruins of Hippo, the episcopal see of St. Augustine, and is said to contain one of the saint’s arm bones inside a statue. Nearby are the ruins of the Basilica Pacis, which St. Augustine built and where he died after Hippo was overrun by Vandals, a Germanic people, in the year 430.

The restoration of the church began in February 2011, and is mostly being funded by the governments of Algeria and France, but with “significant” private contributions such as those from Benedict and his “Papal Foundation.” Other benefactors include the Rome-Mediterranean Foundation, several dioceses and several private companies.

According to Bishop Paul Desfarges of the Diocese of Constantine, which includes Annaba, the pope’s contribution was made because of the pontiff’s “respect” for Saint Augustine. Desfarges, who spoke to Vatican Radio, also said the church was important because it was home to both Christians and Muslims.

“The restoration of the basilica is the restoration of a symbolic place of conviviality and brotherhood between the two shores of the Mediterranean, between Christians and Muslims, between the West and Islam, and among men who are searching for meaning and truth,” Desfarges said.

Sources said the restoration project on the Arabic-Moorish and Roman-Byzantine style structure would be completed late next year or in 2014.

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