Brother Roger: A Life of Reconciliation

Legacy of Taizé Community’s Slain Leader

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TAIZÉ, France, AUG. 17, 2005 ( Brother Roger Schutz sent a letter last winter with words that reflected his life dedicated to reconciliation among Christians.

«God creates neither fear nor worry. All God can do is love us,» the founder of the Taizé Community wrote in a letter to the European youth meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, last Dec. 28-Jan 1.

That was the last such meeting Brother Roger would address. On Tuesday the ecumenical-community leader was stabbed to death by an apparently mentally disturbed woman during vespers in this town in Burgundy, authorities said. He was 90.

Born on May 12, 1915, in Jura, Switzerland, Roger Schutz left his country during World War II and went to France, his mother’s country, and settled in the town of Taizé.

The son of a Protestant pastor, Brother Roger was an invalid for years suffering from tuberculosis. During that long illness, the call had taken shape in him to create a community where simplicity and kindheartedness would be lived out as essential Gospel realities.

Helped refugees

In Taizé, where he had purchased a rundown house, he and his sister Genevieve began to welcome war refugees, including Jews.

Having been found out, in 1942 Brother Roger and his sister had to leave Taizé to save their lives. He returned two years later, this time joined by a few followers. They began a life together which continued in Taizé. Little by little, young men joined the first brothers and on Easter Sunday of 1949, they committed themselves to a life of celibacy, simplicity, and material and spiritual sharing.

Today the Taizé Community is made up of more than 100 brothers — Catholics as well as Protestants of various backgrounds — from 25 nations.

The brothers earn their living by their work. They do not accept donations and do not keep their inheritance, which the community shares with the very poor.

Since the 1950s, some brothers have worked in disadvantaged areas with people suffering from poverty or divisions, witnessing to peace and supporting those who suffer.

Currently, small groups of Taizé brothers work in Asia, Africa and South America.

«As far as possible,» the community’s Web page says, «they share the living conditions of those who surround them, striving to be a presence of love among the very poor, street children, prisoners, the dying, and those who are wounded in their depths by broken relationships, by being abandoned.»

«Pilgrimage of Trust»

At the end of every year, Taizé organizes a meeting of European youth in a different city, a new stage of its «Pilgrimage of Trust on Earth.» Last year it was held in Lisbon, and this year it will be held in Milan, Italy.

Pope John Paul II always sent a message of encouragement to these meetings. Brother Roger was a great friend of the Polish Pontiff, who received him every year in audience in the Vatican.

The Holy Father visited Taizé on Oct. 5, 1986. On that occasion, he said: «One passes by Taizé as one passes by a fountain. The traveler halts, quenches his thirst, and continues on the way.»

In a communiqué, the Taizé Community announced that eight years ago Brother Roger designated Brother Alois, a German Catholic, to succeed him after his death in the leadership of the community.

On receiving the news of the founder’s death, Brother Alois returned to Taizé from Cologne, where he was attending World Youth Day.

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