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Ecumenical pioneer assassinated

Christians around the world mourned the loss of Brother Roger, the Swiss Protestant theologian who in 1940 founded a community of monks in Taiz?, eastern France, that became a worldwide ecumenical movement.

Brother Roger was stabbed during an August 16 evening service in his church by a woman attending the ceremony.

Born of a Swiss Protestant father and a French Catholic mother, Brother Roger Schutz moved to Taiz? in 1940 with plans to found a monastery. He harboured Jewish refugees during the Nazi occupation of France and later built the ecumenical Taiz? Community with a mission to reconcile all Christian denominations and promote dialogue and peace.

Between 1962 and 1989, Brother Roger visited most of the Eastern European countries himself. Sometimes he went for youth gatherings which were authorised but under surveillance, sometimes he went for simple visits, with no permission to speak in public.

Today, the Taiz? community is made up of more than a hundred brothers, including Catholics and Protestants, from more than 25 nations. The community sees itself as an effort to reconcile divided Christians and separated peoples.

Today, small groups of Taiz? brothers are present in Asia, Africa and South America. As far as possible they share the living conditions of those who surround them, striving to be a presence of love among the very poor, street children, prisoners, the dying, and those who are wounded in their depths by broken relationships.

Thousands of young people of both Catholic and Protestant faiths flock to Taiz? each year to meet and take part in communal prayer and song. Many religious leaders have also visited the community, including Pope John Paul II, Archbishops of Canterbury, Orthodox metropolitans and pastors from all over the world.

Brother Roger shunned doctrine, and he and his fellow monks developed chants that merged the meditative prayers of Christian religions. Brother Alois, a 51-year-old German Roman Catholic, was appointed by the Taiz? community to succeed its leader.