Taizé community celebrates 75 years as world site of Christian pilgrimage

(Photo: REUTERS / Robert Pratta)New Taize leader Brother Alois delivers speech during funeral service for founder of Taize ecumenical community Brother Roger. Brother Alois (R), the new Taize community leader, reads from notes during the funeral service for Taize founder Brother Roger, one of the 20th century's leading ecumenical figures August 23, 2005. Brother Roger, a Protestant pastor from Switzerland who founded the Taize monastic community in 1940, was stabbed to death by a woman during a service last week. Thousands of young people of both Catholic and Protestant faiths flock to the Taize community each year to meet and take part in communal prayer and song.

The religious community of Taizé in the east of France is celebrating 75 years of drawing young people together with the brothers there to share prayer and bible study and encounter in a setting welcoming all Christian traditions.

"Taizé is a village, it is a religious community, but more than that it is a spiritual home - a precious station on life's journey and a meeting point with others together on the way," said the World Council of Churches general secretary, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit on Aug. 16.

An ecumenical monastic community in eastern France the Taizé Community is made up of brothers from Catholic and Protestant backgrounds.

Tveit was speaking at the at the 75th anniversary of the Taizé Community, commemorating the life of the community's founder Brother Roger in France's Burgundy region.

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In September 1940, Brother Roger Schütz, who was a Reformed Protestant, purchased a small house that would eventually become the home of the Taizé Community.

Shortly after France's defeat in World War II by Nazi Germany, Brother Roger's home became a sanctuary to war refugees seeking shelter until it was occupied on Nov. 11, 1942, by the Gestapo while Roger was in Switzerland collecting funds for his refuge ministry.

Tveit said, "Deepening my spirituality and inspiring my action, Taizé has also played a transforming role in my own journey of faith. I will remain always grateful to Brother Roger and the Community he founded."

The leader of the WCC, which represents more than 500 million Christians from different traditions said, "It is vital for us today to cherish the deep spiritual truth that we belong together as one human family and that we are part of the entire web of life.

"The recognition of our interrelatedness is the beginning of the mutual trust and solidarity needed to change and transform the ambivalent reality."

'DEFINING QUALITY OF ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT'

Tveit called the concept of a pilgrimage "defining quality of the ecumenical movement".

He said that the Taizé Community's call for a "Pilgrimage of Trust on Earth" which resonates with the WCC' call at its 10th Assembly in Busan 2013 calling for a worldwide Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace.

Around the turn of each year tens of thousands of young people from all over the world converge on Taizé in northern France year for an ecumenical gathering of prayer and meditation.

"In Taizé, we are amazed to see that young people spending a few days together on our hill - Orthodox, Protestants and Catholics - feel deeply united without in any way reducing their faith to a lowest common denominator.

"On the contrary, they deepen their own faith," wrote Brother Alois Löser, Prior of Taizé, in The Irish Times newspaper on Jan. 22, 2014.

He said, "Let us do with Christians of other denominations all that we can together, and let us not undertake anything without taking others into account.

"Praying together once a year during the week of Christian unity cannot be enough; it may even become a formality. Why not pray together more often?"

Tveit, in his speech noted that the experience of life in community reflects the interdependence of human beings.

"Week after week in Taizé, young people join together with the brothers in a common rhythm of life, sharing in prayer and bible study and encounter, and sharing also in the practical tasks that make it possible to live comfortably together," said the WCC head.

Committing to a common purpose shows that diversity can flourish most when developed jointly in a pattern of prayer and work and reaching out to one another, he noted.

"This often challenges us; it often changes us. But throughout the history of Christianity, the most inspiring and important aspects of our faith and mission in God's world have been discerned and expressed in community," said Tveit.

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