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01/07/2022 Algeria (International Christian Concern) – The Catholic Church of Algiers is set to receive a new archbishop following his inauguration on February 11. Jean-Paul Vesco has served as bishop of Oran since 2012 and will replace the former archbishop, who is retiring.

Bishop Vesco will enter into a role that requires careful dialogue between the Muslim majority population and the minority Christian community. In a letter to his Oran community, he wrote, “Leaving the Diocese of Oran was not really something I envisaged, but I am sure that this change will bring new richness and fruitfulness. In any case, this is my wish on the eve of the New Year. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being brothers and sisters to me… I am grateful for everything we have experienced, and that is a lot. I entrust everything to God’s grace with confidence.”

The Christian community in Oran has faced multiple challenges in the last several years. Including the arrest of pastors and the sealing of churches. Church closures began in earnest towards the end of 2019, the majority of which remain sealed. ICC’s Algeria brief commented on the church’s plight, saying, “the government views Christianity as a danger to the Algerian Islamic identity and is making every attempt to regulate the church into non-existence.” Algeria’s constitution includes sections that guarantee religious freedom. However, in practice, the government infringes on these rights, particularly with the Evangelical Protestant Association (EPA). The majority of closed churches are affiliated with the EPA. Individual Christians and Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) also face harassment and legal repercussions for acting on their faith, such as the case with Foudhil Bahloul.

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