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Sunday, October 23, 2016
Archive interview with Brother Roger Schutz of Taize
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 Brother Roger Schutz of Taizé, who was tragically killed last Tuesday, gave an interview to Peter Jennings in December 1986, during a visit to London. It was published in Our Sunday Visitor, on 15 February 1987. The unemployed, disillusioned and those searching for God were among thousands of young Christians from all over Europe who took part in the Pilgrimage of Trust in London over the New Year 1986-87. For five days (29 December to 2 January 1987) young people from Western Europe lived, shared and prayed with their brothers and sisters from Hungary and Poland behind the Iron Curtain. Some came at great personal cost. The 2,500 participants from Yugoslavia each had to pay the equivalent of two-and-a-half months' wages for travel alone. Under the inspirational leadership of Brother Roger Schutz - the founder and leader of Taizé, the ecumenical monastery in France - many of the 25,000 pilgrims, most of them under 30 years of age, went through a life-changing experience. Each year tens of thousands of young people from all over the world flock to the little village of Taizé in search of God, and themselves. They share in the brothers' simple daily routine of work, reflection and prayer. Now 72, Brother Roger first went to Taizé in the heart of Burgundy in Eastern France in 1940 during the Second World War. Today in the community there are about 80 brothers, both Catholic and Protestant. They come from 20 different countries and have taken lifelong monastic vows, while at the sametime retaining their own denominations. In London, Brother Roger, dressed in his simple white habit, talked to Our Sunday Visitor. During a wide-ranging conversation with me he emphasized: "We do not want a Taizé mass movement, and so we send the thousands of young people who visit us each year back to work in their parishes throughout the world." Speaking quietly in French, Brother Roger, originally a member of the Swiss Reformed Church, reflected on the deep impression Pope John XXlll and Mother Teresa of Calcutta had made on his life. He said: "In 1976 I went with some of the brothers to visit Mother Teresa in Calcutta. In one of her hospitals a sister pointed out an extremely sick, eight-week-old Indian baby. She told me that without urgent help the baby would die. I knew in my heart that I had to save this helpless little girl, and so I brought her to France for medical treatment. Marie-Sonaly now lives with my sister in Taizé village. I am her Godfather, and today she accompanies me on my travels." Brother Roger is also a close friend of Pope John Paul II who, as Cardinal Wojtyla of Cracow, visited Taizé in 1968. Speaking in the Church of Reconciliation during his short pastoral visit to Taizé on 5 October 1986, the Pope said: "One passes through Taizé as one passes close to a spring of water. The traveller stops, quenches his thirst and continues on his way. The brothers of the community do not want to keep you. They want, in prayer and silence, to enable you to drink the living water promised by Christ, to know His joy, to discern His presence, to respond to His call, then to set out again to witness to His love and to serve your brothers and sisters in your parishes, your towns and villages, your schools, your universities, and in all your places of work." Typical of the young pilgrim in London for the ninth European gathering was Maria Maguire, 22, who first visited Taizé in 1979. Maria, a Catholic studying to be a schoolteacher at Newman College in Birmingham, England, told me: "In the Church of Reconciliation at Taizé, the peace and calmness of the place just hit me. Ten minutes of silence during the services is a long time for young people of my age who aren't used to it. "Nowadays we rush around doing things all the time. In the silence I found that God really spoke to me, and brought me close to Him, and made me want to go out and help people in my local community." Maria, who assisted in the organization of this pilgrimage, as she did at the last London meeting in 1981, continued: "Taizé gives young people a resource for living. If we really take the pilgrimage message of hope, peace and trust to heart, and try to live it out, then I don't think life will ever again be the gloomy thing we have often made it out to be." In London the young pilgrims lived with families from more than 200 churches of different denominations, including many in the poorer, inner-city areas. Twice a day they gathered for common prayer, which was held simultaneously in Westminster Cathedral and St George's Cathedral, Southwark, and London's largest Anglican churches, St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. Cardinal Basil Hume, Archbishop of Westminster, and Dr Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury, were among prominent church leaders who addressed the pilgrims. At the end of the European meeting, which brought together pilgrims from 20 countries, Brother Roger announced that for the first time, Taizé is preparing an East-West youth meeting in Eastern Europe. It will take place in Lublijana in Yugoslavia on 2-3 May 1987. Brother Roger sees a bright future in the allegedly post-Christian world. He told me: "At the present time, the upheavals of change are pressing at an increasing pace upon every part of the earth. Yet on every continent a springtime of the Church is approaching, together with the frosts and the squalls that always usher in the spring." He continued: "The springtime is already apparent whenever the spirit of mercy humanizes our heart in the light of brotherly love. And that kindles a fire in our heart; even under the ashes there will always be an ember burning. The springtime of the Church is also to be found in sharing. As never before, the conscience of Christians has been awakened to human rights."
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