A Year Without Brother Roger

Interview With Taizé Founder’s Successor

TAIZÉ, France, AUG. 16, 2006 (Zenit.org).- “A year of mourning but also a year of grace,” is how Brother Alois Loeser describes the year since the death of Brother Roger Schutz, founder of the ecumenical Taizé Community.

Brother Roger was stabbed to death Aug. 16, 2005, by an apparently mentally-disturbed woman at an evening prayer service attended by 2,500 people in the Burgundy region in France. He was 90.

Brother Alois, 52, who succeeded Brother Roger as prior of the community, is a native of Bavaria.

In this translation of an interview given to the Italian newspaper Avvenire, Brother Alois describes Taizé’s journey during the first year after losing its founder.

Q: Can one speak of the start of a new period for Taizé?

Brother Alois: Certainly, because with the very tragic disappearance of Brother Roger everything has changed for us. He no longer is and, a year later, we still feel the void.

But at the same time we must say that nothing has changed, because we have the impression of continuing on the evangelical path that he showed us. Moreover, young people continue to live with us this pilgrimage of confidence. This indicates clearly that Brother Roger did not show himself but the presence of Christ, as John the Baptist. We are aware of this presence of God and it enables us to continue.

Q: What have been the most intense moments the community has lived over these months?

Brother Alois: Above all, the European meeting of Milan. It was the first meeting without Brother Roger, and the reception was truly wonderful, in the parishes, in the churches, and in the silence of moments of prayer.

I will always remember in particular the kindness and face of Monsignor Mario Spezzibottiani, who died later. People took part with greater intensity than ever and we felt they wanted to continue with this pilgrimage of confidence. Moreover, after the meeting, I was able to have a private audience with Benedict XVI and it was very beautiful that he continued to encourage us to continue living with Brother Roger’s legacy. Since then, our visitors are even more numerous.

Q: You mentioned that there has been a change. Could you comment on its direction?

Brother Alois: We will see it long-term. For the time being, there is very much to do to explore further the path opened by Brother Roger.

An example? Before Pentecost I was with two brothers in Moscow where we were warmly received by Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II. He told us we must further our collaboration because there are many Orthodox young people who come to Taizé.

I was able to see the exceptional trust that Brother Roger was able to create over decades of contacts. It is only an example. The same is true for young people’s meetings in other continents. In October we will hold a meeting in Calcutta. There is quite an important number of Indian young people who come here and ask us how it would be possible to create the ability to listen between the continents. Globalization exists, but there are also new walls that are being created between the continents.

Q: Ecumenism — Christians’ path toward unity — seems a great frontier. Can you give us your point of view?

Brother Alois: For us, the search for Christian unity is a passion. We wonder how we can speak of a God of love and at the same time use so much energy to justify our separations. I believe that many people removed from the Church do not understand it and we must use all means to seek this unity.

There are many things we could do and we don’t do enough. Here, in Taizé, we meet three times a day with different confessions in common prayer around the word of God, with the singing of psalms and with silence. It is a humble contribution but I think it is a concrete contribution to advance on the path that still today is revealed as arduous.

Q: What are the thousands of young people seeking who come to Taizé every year?

Brother Alois: We don’t know and we ourselves also continue to wonder. Of course there is the thirst for a spiritual life and we hope that young people will find in the Church this source of the presence of God.

The international meetings make possible moreover an experience of the Church that encourages a return to one’s parish, to one’s local realities. We tell all young people that we do not want to create a Taizé movement.

Someone who comes from Italy cannot have a stable community in Taizé. Local communities and parishes are necessary. The parish will continue to be important, because it is the place where all the generations are found and no options are made. We are together in the Church because Christ brings us together and not because we have chosen one another.

Q: What will remain of Brother Roger’s message and charism?

Brother Alois: An enormous legacy which is still alive. Above all, perhaps, the importance of being converted day by day to trust in God. Starting from here, many things become possible and God will show us the way.

Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a micro-donation

Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a micro-donation