ROME, AUG. 19, 2008 (Zenit.org).- A Vatican official says few people of modern times have reflected the face of Christ better than the late founder of Taizé.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said this of Brother Roger Schutz in a L’Osservatore Romano interview published last week, marking the third anniversary of the founder’s death.
Brother Roger was killed at age 90 on Aug. 16, 2005.
“Few people of our generation have reflected with so much transparency the meek and humble face of Jesus Christ,” the cardinal said.
He emphasized the contribution of the founder of Taizé to ecumenical dialogue, and above all his testimony of life and spirituality.
“His death — wrought by a mentally disturbed woman during a liturgical celebration — reminded me of the words of the prophet Isaiah about the Servant of God: ‘Mistreated, he allowed himself to be humiliated and did not open his mouth; he was as a lamb being led to the slaughter, as a mute lamb before its shearer,'” Cardinal Kasper reflected.
The prelate recalled how he would encourage youth to participate in Taizé activities while he was bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart.
“In a turbulent age for the Church and the Christian faith, Brother Roger was a source of hope recognized by many, including myself,” he said. Cardinal Kasper presided at Brother Roger’s funeral in August 2005.
The Vatican official stated that the Taizé founder’s greatest contribution to the ecumenical movement was spiritual. Brother Roger “looked more at the depth” of ecumenical dialogue than at the speed of development, he affirmed.
“He was convinced that only an ecumenism nourished by the word of God and the celebration of the Eucharist, by prayer and contemplation, would be able to bring together Christians in the unity desired by Jesus,” the cardinal added.
He said that the search for unity was the guiding thread even of Brother Roger’s daily life, “gladly accepting every action that could bring Christians of different tradition closer, avoiding any word or gesture that might delay their reconciliation.”
“For me, the fact that every year thousands of young people continue to follow the road to the little hill of Taizé is truly a gift of the Holy Spirit for the Church today,” explained the cardinal. “I am happy to see that every summer young people from different countries of Western and Eastern Europe, belonging to communities of Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox tradition, pitch their tents in Taizé. Often they are accompanied by their priests or pastors.”
In the Community of Taizé, young people see “how a ‘parable of unity’ helps to overcome the splits of the past,” he continued. “I think that many young people realize what is at stake in regard to the unity of Christians. They know how the weight of divisions makes the witness of Christians and the building of a new society difficult.”
Cardinal Kasper also addressed continued uncertainty about Brother Roger’s relationships with the Catholic faith.
He explained that when the religious received holy Communion publicly at Pope John Paul II’s funeral, this was nothing new, as he “received Communion on many occasions.”
Roger Schutz, pastor of the Reformed Church, “already from his youth nourished his faith and spiritual life from the sources of other Christian traditions, thus crossing over certain confessional limits. His desire to follow a monastic vocation and, with that intention, to found a new community with Reformed Christians, says much about this search,” the cardinal explained.
With the passing of the years, he continued, “the faith of the prior of Taizé was enriched with the patrimony of the faith of the Catholic Church. According to his own testimony, referring precisely to the mystery of the Catholic faith, he understood certain elements of the faith, such as the role of the Virgin Mary in the history of salvation, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharistic gifts and the Church’s apostolic ministry. In response, the Catholic Church accepted his access to Communion.”
Brother Roger “received Communion on many occasions from the hands of John Paul II, who had a bond of friendship with him since the time of the Second Vatican Council, and who was familiar with his journey in the Catholic faith,” Cardinal Kasper affirmed. “In this connection, there was nothing secret or concealed in the posture of the Catholic Church, either in Taizé or in Rome.”
Cardinal Kasper recalled Brother Roger’s words at a European meeting of young people in Rome in 1980, in which he “described his own path and Christian identity,” stating that he had found his identity “reconciling in himself the faith of his origins with the mystery of the Catholic faith, without breaking communion with anyone.”
“In his conscience, he had entered into the mystery of the Catholic faith as one who grows, without the need to ‘abandon’ or ‘break’ with what he had received or lived before,” said the cardinal. He added that “out of respect for the journey of faith of the prior of Taizé, it would be preferable in his case not to apply categories that he considered inappropriate for his experience and that, moreover, the Catholic Church never wished to impose on him.”
Friend of Popes
The cardinal also highlighted Brother Roger’s personal friendship with the most recent Popes.
“On one hand, the prior of Taizé felt very close to the Bishops of Rome, in their concern to lead the Church of Christ on the path of spiritual renewal, Christian unity, service to the poor and witness of the Gospel,” he said. Brother Roger also felt “profoundly understood and supported by the Popes in his personal spiritual journey and in the direction that the young Community of Taizé was taking.”
The desire to “act in harmony with the thought of the Bishop of Rome was for him a compass in all his actions,” Cardinal Kasper concluded. “He would never have implemented an initiative that went against the opinion or will of the Pope.”