Bro. Roger of Taizé dies

 — Aug. 17, 200517 aoüt 2005

The Community of Taizé and the whole ecumenical community grieve the loss of Bro. Roger, the founder of the Taizé community. Bro. Roger founded the community in August of 1940 in the village of Taizé, close to Cluny. The community is dedicated to the reconciliation of Christians. Taizé is known for its outreach to youth and young adults. It is a place of pilgrimage for youth of all traditions. Taizé prayer has a distinctive chant and meditation pattern that has been spread around the world. The chants are included in most recent hymn books, and many cities have regular Taizé ecumenical prayer services. The Taizé Community has also organized annual gatherings in cities around the world, attracting tens of thousands of youth. Although Bro. Roger and many of the other brothers come from Protestant traditions, the community has also attracted a wide interest from Roman Catholics and Orthodox. There are a number of Roman Catholic brothers in the community.

Bro. Roger was 90 years old. He had decided to step down as leader of the community this year, and the brothers had elected Bro. Alois, a German Roman Catholic, as the new prior of Taizé. Bro. Roger died on Tuesday during the evening prayer service after being attacked by a knife-wielding woman. 2,500 other worshippers witnessed the attack. The woman was taken into custody in nearby Maçon.

Letters of condolence have been sent from the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism and the World Council of Churches. Pope Benedict XVI expressed sadness following the terrifying news, and Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury called the news “an indescribable shock.”

The WCC shares in grief at the death of Taizé’s founder, “a witness to the gospel and to ecumenical dialogue”

Dear brothers in Christ,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” – John 14,27

Shocked by the news of Brother Roger’s death in almost incredible circumstances, I wish to tell you, on behalf of the World Council of Churches, how saddened we are and offer you our deep feelings of compassion and solidarity at this time of grief. Our prayers join your own and those of thousands of other people, both young and not so young, who have found in the Taizé community a unique place of spiritual refreshment and openness to others through listening to the word of God.

Brother Roger died as he lived, praying at the centre of his community. The witness he bore throughout his life to the gospel and to ecumenical dialogue has been enormously influential over the past century. The vision of peace and reconciliation in ‘Living Today for God’, which guided his commitment and the community which he founded, was a source of inspiration and spiritual renewal for generations of young people, both in Europe and throughout the world, searching for a spirituality which had meaning in the upheavals of today’s world. His unceasing search for an authentic ecumenical dialogue between believers, going beyond institutional barriers, was resoundingly received, especially by young people. Under his spiritual leadership the Taizé community has been able to offer a model that integrated praising God by living out liturgical renewal together with practical solidarity towards those who are most deprived. For many of us Brother Roger personified the hope that Christian faith can bring to the world and to each and every one of its inhabitants. Despite the tragic circumstances, we must give thanks to God for having given Brother Roger to us as a guide on our pilgrimage.

We wish to express our deep sense of solidarity and the assurance of our prayers to all of you his brothers, on whom now rests the responsibility of following the path indicated by Brother Roger and of maintaining the flame of the torch which lights the way to unity, peace and reconciliation.

We pray for all those who witnessed the violent death of Brother Roger that they may find the strength to continue the struggle to overcome violence in our world. We also pray for the woman responsible for this fatal act, that through the grace of God her life may be transformed.

We pray that the Holy Spirit may guide your thoughts and hearts and may give you the strength to continue in gratitude for the inheritance that your Brother leaves you, an inheritance which bears that vision of hope, peace and reconciliation which the world so greatly needs.

Geneviève Jacques
Acting general secretary
World Council of Churches

Posted: Aug. 17, 2005 • Permanent link:
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