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Pope Francis appoints peacemaking soldier as bishop over desert diocese that spans two million square kilometers

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By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
3/20/2017 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (

Fr. John MacWilliam will oversee an expansive diocese in Algeria.

Pope Francis has appointed Fr. John MacWilliam as bishop of the diocese of Laghouat-Ghardaia in Algeria. Algeria is a predominately Muslim country and few Catholics remain following persecution in the 1990s.

A peacemaking priest in Algeria has been elevated to the rank of bishop by Pope Francis.

A peacemaking priest in Algeria has been elevated to the rank of bishop by Pope Francis.


LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) -- Pope Francis has appointed Fr. John MacWilliam, 68, as the new bishop of the diocese of Laghouat-Ghardadia in Algeria. The decision follows Fr. MacWIlliam's work in building trust and friendship with the local Muslim population.

Algeria is a predominately Muslim country and there were persecutions of the Catholic Church there in the 1990s. Embassies and businesses closed as troubles caused many foreigners to leave. One person who stayed behind was Fr. MacWilliam. When asked why he didn't leave, he simple answered, "When things get difficult you don't leave your friends."

Fr. John MacWIlliam is a British Army veteran. He spent 18 years in the British Army, working in Northern Ireland during the troubles there. After his term of service, he was ordained in 1991 and joined the White Fathers in Algeria in 1994. He volunteered for the mission following the assassinations of several Trappist monks by Muslim extremists.

His tiny parish focused on dialogue and service, and providing help for disadvantaged people such as foreigners, prisoners, and women. He has forged new, positive relationships with his Muslim neighbors, which has attracted the notice of Pope Francis.

Fr. MacWilliam remarked that being around faithful Muslims who prayed daily also strengthened his own faith in God.

There are perhaps only a few hundred Catholics left in Algeria. Most of them are young students from other countries. Despite the small numbers, his diocese spans more than two million square kilometers, mostly across the Sahara desert.

As bishop, his job will be to provide pastoral care for the Catholics in his diocese and to serve as their advocate.


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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for January 2019
Young People and the Example of Mary.
That young people, especially in Latin America, follow the example of Mary and respond to the call of the Lord to communicate the joy of the Gospel to the world.


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