Pope Francis “was informed of the death of Jean Vanier, Founder of L’Arche Community: “he prays for him and for the whole Community,” said Alessandro Gisotti, ad interim Director of the Holy See Press Office in a Tweet on May 7, 2019. The Pope met with Vanier in the Vatican in March 2014.
Jean Vanier died during the night at the age of 90, in the Maison Jeanne Garnier in Paris, France. A Canadian, he was given palliative care a few days earlier.
“We have the great sadness to announce to you the death of Jean Vanier. He died peacefully today, May 7, 2019, at 2:10 am in Paris, surrounded by close relatives,” states a Tweet of L’Arche.
“These last days, although very alert, he declined rapidly, reads a press release. “Jean had a life of immense fruitfulness. We wish first of all to give thanks for that.”
In his last message, a few days ago, he said: “I feel profoundly at peace and in trust. I don’t know what my future will be made of, but God is good and whatever happens, it will be for the best. I’m happy and I say thank you for everything. From the bottom of my heart, my love for each one of you.”
According to his biography, published by the Catholic Church in France, Jean Vanier was born on September 10, 1928, penultimate of a sibling of five children.”
While destined to a military career, like his father, he left everything at the age of 22, feeling a growing attraction to a spiritual path.
In September 1950 he joined L’Eau Vive,” a center of theological formation for laymen. He stayed there to follow studies in view of becoming a priest. In 1964, while visiting a psychiatric asylum, in the south of a Parisian suburb, he was touched by the distress of two of the interned persons: Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux. Jean Vanier decided to stay with them and live with them. It was July 1964 that he found a house in Trosly-Breuil (Oise), which marked the beginning of L’Arche.
Today, L’Arche hosts more than 1,200 mentally handicapped persons in 33 Communities recognized as social-medical establishments. L’Arche’s International Federation is present in 38 countries with 154 Communities in five Continents.
Jean Vanier was also at the origin of several other Movements. In 1968, after a retreat he made in Toronto, the “Faith and Sharing” Movement was born, which brings together Religious, laymen but also handicapped persons.
That same year, Jean Vanier and Marie Helene Matthieu organized a first pilgrimage-encounter for mentally handicapped people. They renewed the experience at Easter 1971. On that occasion, the first “Faith and Light” pilgrimage was held at Lourdes. Bringing together 12,000 pilgrims from 15 countries, 4,000 of whom were mentally handicapped, this meeting gave birth to the Association of the same name. Today, “Faith and Light” boasts more than 1,420 Communities spread in 54 provinces in five Continents, that is, 86 countries.
In 1975 Jean Vanier resigned from his post as International Coordinator of L’Arche and, since 1980, he had no decision-making position in the Foundation.
On May 13, 2016, in the framework of “Fridays of Mercy,” Pope Francis went to the “Chicco” Community, the first L’Arche Community in Italy, founded in 1981, in the South of Rome, at Ciampino.