Pope Benedict XVI
In these days when we remember the return to the Father of dear Brother Roger, the founder of the Taizé Community, who was murdered five years ago, on August 16, 2005, during evening prayer in the Church of Reconciliation, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI wants you to know his spiritual closeness and union in prayer with the Community and all those involved in commemorating the memory of Brother Roger.
A tireless witness to the gospel of peace and reconciliation, Brother Roger was a pioneer in the difficult paths toward unity among the disciples of Christ. Seventy years ago, he began a community that continues to see thousands of young adults, searching for meaning in their lives, come to it from around the world, welcoming them in prayer and allowing them to experience a personal relationship with God.
Although he has entered eternal joy, he still speaks to us. May his witness to an ecumenism of holiness inspire us in our march towards unity, and may your Community continue to live and to radiate his charism, especially towards the younger generations!
With all his heart, the Holy Father asks God to fill you with his blessings, as well as the brothers of the Taizé Community and all who are involved with you on the roads to unity among the disciples of Christ, especially the young.
Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople
We want to send the prior, Brother Alois, and the entire Taizé Community these few words to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the tragic death of the late Brother Roger and also the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Taizé Community. He was not only its founder and inspiration, but also the “watchman”, tireless and always available, at the bedside of its development, at the service of the powerful idea that founded it, what he called “ecumenical reconciliation”.
Whatever the view that we may have of the journey and the work of Brother Roger, it is undeniable that he was one of the great Christian figures of the twentieth century. Who can doubt the profound sincerity and authenticity of his spiritual “quest”? Who can doubt the sincerity of the “path” that he wanted to undertake, not alone but in a desire to lead others as well to share that “light”, in joy and humility? Was not that sharing, a deep desire for communion, his concern and his motivation until his last words, that of his “Unfinished Letter” which aimed at a “widening” of the diakonia of the Taizé Community? Who can doubt the impact of his experience and teaching on thousands of young people, and older people too, who are longing, in a spiritual search, a deep inner yearning, often unacknowledged and not understood, for listening and communion?
With him and the brothers who shared his vision and his tension, Taizé has become a true center, a focal point and a place of gathering. A place of deepening in prayer, of listening and humility. A place of respect for the tradition of others. Recognition of others, of their face and thus of their being, a prerequisite to loving the image of the One who loved us “without limits”.
His approach was a process of looking for love and truth, which cut its way through to an encounter with others, meeting their glance, in personal prayer, lived together and shared.
Our dearly missed Olivier Clement, a writer, historian and one of the greatest theologians of the Orthodox Church in the twentieth century, who was very close to the community, summarized in his book, published in 1997 and appropriately titled Taizé, a Meaning to Life, the spiritual “essence” of this “searching” undertaken with and around Taizé, with and around Brother Roger.
“At Taizé,” wrote Olivier Clement, “people from different and sometimes opposing denominations, cultures, races, and languages pray and work together. Yes, it is really possible; Christ destroys every separating wall.” Regarding the attraction of the young, Olivier Clement explained the “Taizé phenomenon”, saying: “Young people today are tired of talk and tired of scoffing: they want authenticity. It is no use talking to them about communion if we cannot show them a place where communion is being worked out – ‘come and see.’ At such a place people are welcomed as they are without being judged; no one is asked for their doctrinal passport; but nevertheless no secret is made of the fact that everyone is gathered around Christ, and that with him – ‘I am the way’, he said – a way forward begins for those who want it.” (p. 12)
Taizé, a Meaning to Life. Olivier Clement was right to say this. We also say that it is a “place of life”. What is a place of life if not a place, certainly a physical one, but also and above all a place of inwardness that helps us reflect on ourselves and others, that allows us to restore ourselves and call ourselves into question? A center that leads us to realize, in ourselves and with others, horizontal and vertical unity, in full resonance with the spiritual dimension of our existence. This search for unity, in joy, humility, love and truth, both in relation to others, “sacrament of the brother” as well as in the relationship with God, “sacrament of the altar”, sums up in our view the essence of this approach, the route, the path of Taizé.
Therein lies the charism of this community. A charism of “gathering” which gives a “meaning”. And the meaning, for us Christians, cannot be lived otherwise than in the tension towards the one thing necessary.
May the memory of Brother Roger, which we carry in our prayers, be eternal, and may our wishes go with the community so that it may pursue the diakonia recognized as a “path” for themselves and others by Brother Roger.
The grace of the Lord and his infinite mercy be with you all.
Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow
Dear Brother Alois! Dear brothers and sisters in Christ!
With all my heart I greet you, representatives of different peoples, countries and Christian churches, who are gathered today to mark two memorable dates: the fifth anniversary of the death of Brother Roger and the 70th anniversary of his founding of the Taizé Community.
"Unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it will bear much fruit." (John 12:24). These words of the Gospel, spoken by Christ the Savior as an announcement of his death on the cross and of his resurrection, were not just addressed to his disciples, but also to future generations of Christians. The whole long life of Brother Roger, filled with activities, and his tragic and innocent death confirmed that he followed in the steps of the Lord in the gift of himself.
Today at Taizé a hundred brothers, Catholics and Protestants, live together. And the community is often visited by young believers from the Orthodox Churches. It seems important to me that young people be brought together on the basis of the common heritage of the ancient Church, which the community studies carefully and tries to follow.
Having met Brother Roger on more than one occasion, I noticed each time how much he knew and understood the tradition of the early Church, and how the Word of God and the writings of the Church Fathers were a basis for his personal spiritual experience. Combining fidelity to the teaching of the Holy Fathers with creative adaptation to the needs of today, in a missionary ministry among youth, characterized the path of Brother Roger and that of the community founded by him. The thousands of young people who visit Taizé and take part in the meetings organized each year by the community in various European countries show convincingly that the Gospel message of God’s love can still find a living echo in people’s hearts today, if it is not only preached in words, but lived out personally.
From the depths of my heart, praising the Taizé Community for its 70 years of life since its foundation, I wish that the brothers of the community may remain faithful to the example of Brother Roger and realize with zeal their great Christian mission in Europe today.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams
My dear Alois,
Five years on from the tragic death of Brother Roger, we remember with sorrow and thanksgiving all that he gave to the Church and to the world. During those ﬁve years, we have seen much change – but very little of it in the direction of the gospel values Brother Roger embodied. We have seen the continuing failure of the world’s leaders to take binding decisions about the protection of our environment, and we have seen dramatic examples of environmental devastation like the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We have seen the near collapse of the financial institutions of the developed world – but we have yet to see the radically changed behaviour that might indicate that we in the wealthy parts of the world had learned lessons of this trauma. We have seen the continuing ravages of war and injustice in so many parts of Africa and Asia and the lack of a just resolution to the sufferings of the peoples of the Holy Land; we have seen the pain of the people of Gaza, as we have also seen the rise of anti-Semitic bigotry in parts of Europe, the tides of violence directed towards Christian minorities in some nations and the mindless prejudice against Islam in other settings.
“If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets”, says Abraham in Jesus’ parable (Luke 16:31), “they will not be convinced even if someone were to rise from death.” It is easy to react in this way to the tragedies of our time, to feel that the witness and suffering of God’s servants will always fail to convert and transform. Yet the truth is that the resurrection has happened. And we know that it has happened because some people have listened and allowed their lives to be transﬁgured in ways that transﬁgure the lives of those around them. Five years ago, I wrote of Brother Roger that he was one of the few figures who truly change the climate of a religious culture – not by the exercise either of force or of cheap popularity, but by a lifelong practice of Christlike authority shown in humility and accessibility to all, the authority of a brother not a ruler.
Brother Roger is a proof of the resurrection. Death is real and apparently powerful in our world, through war and disease and the death of the soul in greed and apathy. But the life and death of a man like our brother tells us that death is overcome. There is another way to live – and whether it leads to comfort or success or safety in the world’s terms is irrelevant. What matters is that in this life we see the Kingdom of God in the defenselessness and generosity of a witness to the resurrection; and in this life we see also how such a witness creates community – not only at Taizé but throughout the world
So we continue to celebrate Brother Roger as one of those who gives us conﬁdence in the resurrection and challenges us to live in and by the resurrection life. In the light of his witness, we are set free to look at the crises and traumas of our times and to remember that, although Moses and the prophets so often go unheard and the Lord himself is cruciﬁed, nothing can silence the living Word, and death itself yields to the unceasing action and self-giving of the Risen Jesus.
I remember with such joy last year’s visit around this time, and am holding you all in grateful prayer.
With love in the Lord.
The General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, Ishmael Noko
Dear Frère Alois, dear members of the Community,
In August this year, the LWF together with the global Christian community will commemorate the fifth anniversary of the death of the founder of the Taizé Community, Brother Roger. His tragic death called attention to the powers of death and violence in our midst, powers with which Brother Roger was familiar from a young age.
It was in the midst of the Second World War that he founded a center of refuge for the afflicted and persecuted. A small community of brothers became a leading center committed to reconciliation and peace-building in a world torn apart by hate and destruction. We cannot remember his violent death without, even more strongly, being mindful of his witness to alternative visions for life, based on prayerful communion with God in Christ. The Taizé commitment to reconciliation, peace and unity among humankind is as relevant as ever. We will celebrate with gratitude the 70th anniversary of this mission, which comes only days after the anniversary of Brother Roger’s death.
During the past 70 years Taizé has become a major meeting point for youth, from all over Europe and around the world. The community has given to Christians everywhere distinctive forms of chant that unite us as we sing. In this music the hope of the community, to be a means and foretaste of Christian unity, has found an unexpected expression.
Today, simplicity, another of Brother Roger’s key concerns, is gaining new momentum in a globalizing world. Brother Roger’s exemplary life in simplicity challenges us to look at questions of the ecological sustainability of our own life styles. His witness takes us back to the roots of God’s purpose for creation and humanity.
This summer, the Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation, meeting in Stuttgart, Germany, will give special attention, in the spirit of the Lord’s Prayer, to the challenges of food justice and sharing of resources within the global communion. We also will try to bring
these issues before eyes of all.
As we remember Brother Roger’s tragic death five years ago, we are grateful to God for the life of this faithful servant committed to Christian unity. We thank God also for the continuing life of the Taizé Community, and offer to you, our sisters and brothers, our prayers for your future in hope as you celebrate these two anniversaries.
May our Lord be with you!
The General Secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, Setri Nyomi
The World Communion of Reformed Churches rejoices with the Taizé Community on this very important occasion.
We thank God for the life of Brother Roger and the vision that continues to live on. This vision continues to renew many people in our world today – young and old. It is appropriate that the commemoration of five years after his sudden departure from this world is also being marked at the same time as the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the Taizé community. It is an affirmation of the fact that the vision God gave him and which has being supported by many colleagues who are now leading the community continues to live on.
We congratulate you on this seventieth anniversary. We celebrate especially the impact that the Taizé Community has on hundreds of thousands of young people around the world. Taizé knows the truth of what is close to the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ – that young people are important. We pray that as you celebrate seventy years of life and impact, you will continue to experience seventy new years and more of continuing impact in our broken world. May God renew all the members of the community and all the young people impacted by it, even as you remain faithful as sources of renewal in the world.
On behalf of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, I congratulate you and wish you the best of God’s blessings.
The General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Olav Fykse-Tveit
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. On behalf of the World Council of Churches, a fellowship of 349 churches, I am honored to share our greetings on this solemn and special occasion to all the brothers arid sisters in the Taizé Community.
The entire WCC fellowship of churches rejoices with you as you celebrate seventy years since the Taizé Community was founded by Brother Roger. This milestone gives cause for praise and thanksgiving; for mercy and forgiveness; and for renewal and blessing.
The journey over the last seventy years has born fruit for the inspiration and blessings the Taizé community’s ministry has given to the world. The "parable of community" has been a pioneering ministry, inspiring churches throughout the world as a model for attending to the spiritual and physical needs of the whole people of God and in particular the needs of young people.
We know that such milestones provide a time to offer back, to receive mercy and to seek forgiveness. And in particular we continue to receive mercy and seek forgiveness as we also celebrate the life of dear Brother Roger, taken away so brutally – who tirelessly gave his life in witness to Christ’s calling of love and reconciliation. And in his own words we remember him and strive to create a “...community where kindness of heart arid simplicity would be at the center of everything.”
This milestone is also a time to look to the future in Christ, to seek the renewal of the community through the presence of the Holy Spirit and to ask for God’s blessing upon the journey of the generations to come. The holistic mission of the Taizé community has touched the lives of millions and yet, there is much work still ahead.
It is my earnest prayer that the mission and witness through the Taizé community will continue to empower the spiritual and physical lives of people; and that this will be a blessing not only for the community, but also for the world, and the churches’ continual search for visible unity and common witness in Christ.
As God stood with Paul, according to his testimony to Timothy, God stands alongside and in the midst of the community, strengthening and guiding its mission and witness. The fellowship of WCC member churches, by God’s grace, also stands alongside the Taizé community in celebration, thanksgiving and prayer.
The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu
I greet you most warmly in the name of our Cruciﬁed, Risen and Ascended Lord, on this Feast of the Transﬁguration.
Your Community has taught us all that the movement of the soul away from the world into the life of God is the movement also into the world’s heart. You have renewed the Church’s contemplation of God and therefore have helped all of us to renew our caring service to the world.
Your Community illuminates for us the Church called to be a community which speaks to the world in God’s name, and which speaks to God from the middle of the world’s darkness and frustration.
Your intercessory prayer helps all of us to share in the divine love made known to us in Christ. As our Lord showed us, prayer is the very essence of the work of God.
On this Feast of the Transﬁguration, we also remember the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As our Lord entered into the depths of the world which was alienated from God and his presence, may you, as you follow the example of Brother Roger, do the same.
Seventy years of the Community has set a deep foundation of pilgrimage and trust.
With all God’s love and blessing.