The last survivor of the 1996 massacre of Tibhirine, died in Morocco on 21 November aged 97. French Trappist monk Jean-Pierre Schumacher passed away peacefully on Sunday morning in the monastery of Our Lady of the Atlas, in central Morocco, where he had lived since 2000. The news was announced by the Moroccan Church in Rabat.
Father Jean-Pierre was one of the two monks who managed to escape the kidnapping and brutal killing of their seven confreres from the Trappist Monastery during the ten-year civil war in Algeria. The other monk who survived the attack was Frère Amédée, who died in 2008.
The Superior, Christian de Chergé and other six monk brothers Luc Dochier, Christophe Lebreton, Michel Fleury, Bruno Lemarchand, Célestin Ringeard, Paul Favre-Miville, were all beheaded and their heads were discovered two months later not far from Tibhirine. The bodies, however, were never found. Though the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) claimed the kidnapping and killing, the circumstances of their abduction and murder have yet to be fully clarified.
Born in 1924 in Lorraine, raised in a Catholic working-class family of six children, Frère Jean-Pierre studied with the Marist Fathers. He was ordained a priest in 1953 and entered the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Timadeuc in Brittany in 1957.
At the request of the then Archbishop of Algiers, Léon-Etienne Duval, he moved to Tibhirine in the mid-1960s with three other monks from Timadeuc, to "build a small community in a Muslim environment, living as poor among the poor." Four years after the 1996 massacre, he settled in Midelt along with the other survivor, Frère Amédée, and became prior of the small Trappist Monastery of Notre-Dame de l'Atlas composed of eight brothers.
In their new home, they both used to say they considered themselves as a "small remnant" of Tibhirine: "Our presence in the monastery - Frère Jean-Pierre said - is a sign of faithfulness to the Gospel, to the Church and to the Algerian people."
He also said he often asked himself why he was allowed to survive the massacre and that in time he realized that God had assigned him the mission to witness the events of Tibhirine and "to make known the experience of communion with our Muslim brothers, which we continue now here in the monastery of Midelt."
Father Jean-Pierre met Pope Francis during his Apostolic Journey to Morocco in 2019. His funeral is expected to take place on Tuesday, November 30, in the Monastery of Our Lady of Atlas.