Statement by Brother Alois

Ascertaining the Truth

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

At a time when society and the Church are attempting to shed light on sexual abuses and assaults, notably towards minors and fragile persons, my brothers and I have judged it necessary to speak out as well. For decades now at Taizé we have been welcoming, week after week, thousands of young and not-so-young people from Europe and from the whole world.

Aware of our responsibility and the trust that is shown to us by these young people, their families and their group-leaders, we have always tried to ensure that this welcome takes place in the best conditions possible, with respect for the convictions of each person and deeply attentive to the safety and integrity of all.

Among the participants in the meetings, however, whether between young people or between young people and adults, violations of integrity have taken place. When we are informed of this, we make a point of listening to those violated, and also of informing the competent authorities, both judicial and ecclesial.

Among other measures, since 2010 a page of our website [] has been dedicated to the protection of individuals and an email address set up to facilitate a possible reporting of offenses. At Taizé itself, a brother and other persons outside the community are responsible for listening to any person aware of an assault that is sexual in nature or any other form of violence, particularly concerning a minor. This is included in the information given to all the participants upon their arrival.

If I am speaking out today, this is because I have become aware with deep sadness of cases involving our brothers and, even if these cases are old, we have felt, in community, that we had to speak about them. There were five cases of sexual assault upon minors, in the years from the 1950s to the 1980s, by three different brothers, two of whom have been deceased for over fifteen years.

When I was informed of these accusations, my first concern was to listen, with other brothers, to the survivors*, in an absolute respect for their words, to hear their suffering and to remain alongside them to the best of our ability.

In recent years, in the society and in the Church, an understanding of the gravity of every violation of a person’s integrity has fortunately deepened. This finds an echo in the evolution of French law, which requires that every case be reported, independently of the date on which the acts were committed.

To continue our work of establishing the truth, and after having spoken beforehand with the survivors, I have just informed the public prosecutor of these five situations.

We recognize that these assaults committed in the past by brothers are also part of our history. For us, this reporting is part of an attempt to ascertain the truth that had already begun by listening to the survivors and, still today, our first thoughts go out to them; in hearing what they experienced and suffered, we feel shame and deep sorrow. It is possible that this statement may encourage other possible survivors to make themselves known. We will listen to them and will remain alongside them in the steps that they choose to take.

We are convinced that it is only by bringing to light these acts that, with the assistance of persons outside the community, we will help to protect effectively all those who show us their trust by coming to Taizé. If I am speaking today, it is because we owe this to the survivors, to those close to them, and to all those who seek at Taizé a space of trust, safety and truth.

Brother Alois

*Following current English usage, we have translated "personnes victimes" by "survivors".

Every act of aggression, old or more recent, committed against a minor or an adult, whether by a brother abusing his moral ascendancy or by any other person, can be reported to the address protection, to a survivors’ association or to national hotlines given on the Taizé website [].

Note updated on July 19, 2019

Following the statement by Brother Alois on June 4th, several people have written to the address protection, leading Brother Alois to inform the public prosecutor of two new accusations of sexual assault upon minors which took place in the 1960s and 1970s, by a brother who has been dead for over twenty years and another brother who left the community more than forty years ago. In addition, further testimonies have been received implicating a brother who died over fifteen years ago, who was mentioned in the original statement, describing sexual assault in the form of inappropriate touching of young people over the age of majority.

Note updated on October 18 and 21, 2019

Since publishing his letter of June 4th, “Ascertaining the Truth”, Brother Alois recently received the testimony of a woman describing a strong dominance exerted on her by a brother, accusing him of manipulation and spiritual, psychological and sexual harassment lasting several years up until this summer. According to her account, this dominance began in 2003, when she took part in the international meetings in Taizé as a young adult.

Brother Alois immediately notified the relevant authorities and the police received the testimony of the victim. The brother in question has been charged with "rape and sexual assault" and remanded in custody. It is now up to the courts to establish the facts and to determine their legal status.

Brother Alois declared: “My brothers and I are in a state of shock. We want everything to be brought to light. Any kind of dominance or ascendancy over others is totally incompatible with our life. I stand alongside the survivor and we will do all we can to support her.”

To continue this work of ascertaining the truth, the Community reiterates that various measures have been set up to receive any further reports, including the email address protection

Excerpt from Brother Alois’s meditation of October 22 "To Bring Everything to Light"

I must also tell you that, while continuing to animate with much joy this “pilgrimage of trust,” we have also recently been dealing with a very dark reality, about which I think it is important to speak with you now.

These past months we have been involved in the work of ascertaining the truth concerning accusations of sexual assault committed by brothers upon minors in the years from 1950 to 1980.

After having reported these accusations to the legal authorities, and after having made this step public, I recently received a new and shocking testimony, accusing a brother of spiritual, psychological and sexual manipulation and harassment over many years.

So that everything could be brought to light, I immediately notified the relevant authorities. A few days ago, the brother in question was taken into custody, charged with rape and sexual assault, and placed in provisional detention.

Naturally, we must wait for the truth to be brought to light. But we must state this clearly: if these facts are true, this means that the brother has betrayed the trust that was shown to him. The trust of the victim, first of all, but also the trust of all those who come here, and the trust of his brothers.

(...) If I have decided to speak this evening on such a serious subject, it is because our community wants to do all it can so that Taizé may remain a place of trust for you, a place in which you are welcomed as you are and fully respected in all ways.

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Interview to French newspaper « La Croix » (June 2019)

Brother Alois replies to questions from the French newspaper « La Croix » in an interview entitled: “We owe clarity to the young people who come to Taizé” (questions from Anne-Bénédicte Hoffner).

- What action did you take when you became aware of these cases of sexual assault committed by brothers?

  • Br. A: When I was informed, I first listened, with other brothers, to the victims, in absolute respect for their words, to hear their suffering. As the victims did not want their testimony to be passed on to the courts, it seemed to me that the priority was to listen to them and support them as best we could. We were able to keep in touch with several of them and even welcome them in Taizé. I was struck to see that something was liberated in them when their words were taken seriously. They were surprised that I believed them. They did not expect it.

- Why did you decide today to report these facts to the judicial authorities?

  • Br. A: By listening to the victims, I understood the seriousness of any sexual assault, any attack on a person’s integrity. It was only by accompanying them that I understood the profound need they have for justice in order to bring about healing. This convinced me of the need to go further. On Monday, June 3, I informed the public prosecutor of these situations involving brothers of the community.

- Is it a question of rape?

  • Br. A: No, to my knowledge, there has never been any rape. But this in no way minimizes the suffering of the victims. From now on, these facts are in the hands of the prosecutor; it’s up to him now to categorize them.

- Have you told the victims of your decision to go to the judicial authorities?

  • Br. A: Yes, we contacted them in advance to inform them of this process of finding and acknowledging the truth. They gave us their consent.

- Does the whole community share your feeling about the need for this judicial process?

  • Br. A: I felt that I could count on the maturity of the community; this maturity made the process possible and even necessary. When I shared with my brothers my desire to make these situations clear from a judicial point of view, we reflected in small groups, involving also our brothers living in our fraternities abroad. Of course we were concerned about the consequences, but none of us expressed any reluctance. Even if reporting the facts to the prosecutor could hurt us, the need to do so soon became obvious. At the same time, we quickly came to understand the importance of working through the truth for the sake of our loved ones and the tens of thousands of young and old who come each year to Taizé.

Conversation with KNA (German Catholic press agency) - June 2019

(the questions were asked by Volker Hasenauer)

Your community has made public sexual assault charges against three brothers. How sure can you be that there are no current cases of sexual violence in Taizé?

  • Brother Alois: We cannot be absolutely sure. But already in 2010, we set up an e-mail address where people can report possible incidents. What we have just made public may encourage others to report incidents. Through contact with those concerned, we learned how important it is for them to have someone to listen to them with no preconditions and without questioning their words.

Why have these assaults not been detected for so long, or why are you making them public only now, when there were already initial indications as early as 2010?

  • Brother Alois: My first concern was to listen to the victims, in absolute respect for their words. We wanted to show them that we took seriously what happened to them. At the same time, those concerned did not want the facts to be made public. But it became clearer over time that we could not stop there. We owed it to the victims and their families, as well as to all those who trust us and who come with young people to Taizé.

Two of those accused have died. Can the third one who is accused remain a member of your community?

  • Brother Alois: The brother in question has had no role in youth meetings for a long time. But he cannot live alone, and we continue to have a responsibility for him.

How can you be sure there will be no repeat offenses?

  • Brother Alois: When I became aware of the accusations, I took a number of steps, besides contact with the victims, to further protect the safety and integrity of those who trust us. Among other things, we have long had the rule to have personal conversations only in the places provided for this purpose, which are open to view. With competent people from outside the community, we reflected – and we continue to do so today – on what we could do, especially regarding the link with the leaders who bring groups to Taizé and concerning the formation of our brothers.

To what extent do these cases undermine Taizé’s desire to be an open and peaceful place of prayer and sharing for young people around the world?

  • Brother Alois: It is true that many young people trust us a lot. So these cases in the past are all the more serious. But we are convinced that we can only live up to that trust by openly addressing events. This may also help people not to idealize Taizé and us brothers. We want the meetings to be anchored in reality, so that young people can continue to find in Taizé a place of true encounter and trust.


Printed from: - 17 January 2020
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