Thursday, January 05, 2006

A World More Human

This morning, Benedict XVI received for the first time in audience Frere Alois, the new prior of the ecumenical community at Taize.

Alois, 48, a German Catholic, was the hand-picked successor of Frere Roger, the legendary founder of the community who was stabbed to death during an August prayer service by a mentally disturbed congregant. Earlier this week, the new prior presided over his first major Taize event, a meeting of youth in Milan which was reported to have attracted in excess of 50,000 young people.

The long-standing affection with which Benedict and John Paul II have held Taize was strongly reaffirmed on several occasions in 2005. Frere Roger, who had allegedly been quietly received into the Catholic church in the 1990s, received communion from the hand of Cardinal Ratzinger at John Paul's funeral. The celebrant of Roger's funeral liturgy was Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, who spoke in glowing terms of the movement's positive impact on the cohesion of the Christian family and reaffirmed the Holy See's support of it.

The morning after Roger was murdered, Benedict spoke extemporaneously from the window of Castel Gandolfo to pay tribute, quoting from a letter he had received from the ecumenical pioneer but the day before. "Our community of Taize seeks to walk in communion with the Holy Father," Roger wrote, assuring the new Pope of his own "deep communion" with him. Given this subtext, Alois' visit can only be seen as a continuation along this path.

Benedict then sent a greeting to last week's gathering in Milan. "In expressing tribute to Brother Roger who desired these international meetings in order to root in young Christians a spirit of brotherhood and peace," Benedict wrote that his wish, "is that the dialogue among you, who have come from different countries and different Christian denominations, as well as the meeting with the Christians of Milan who are welcoming you, will enable you to form new ties that will be seeds of peace among people."

"May the example of the founder of Taize and the tireless testimony of Pope John Paul II in favor of dialogue and peace encourage you to be peacemakers in your turn!"

"In a world made fragile by many situations of tension, and in our developed societies marked by new forms of violence that affect the young in particular, the Pope invites you to witness with simplicity and joy to the Spirit of peace that dwells within you."

In a reference to the founder's assassin, the Pope returned to the Christian message. "He is our peace. He invites us to forgive, the sign of an absolute love."

Also at Milan, Alois presented an unfinished letter from Frere Roger to the assembled, which he referred to in his own meditation.
Each one of us can be attentive to alleviate the suffering and the anguish of those who are near. By opening our hearts, by making one destitute person happier, we make the world more human. Pope Benedict XVI said recently, “All human beings belong to one and the same family,”

By beginning this way in our own life, very humbly, very simply, we will be led to go further, to widen our solidarity more and more and to take a challenging commitment.

“And then we are set on a road of hope,” wrote Brother Roger while preparing the Letter for our meeting. And he reminded us that we are not alone on this road.: “God enables us to go forward towards a communion, that communion of love which is the Church...”

Under a new prior, that communion of love was further strengthened this morning.