August 17, Taize, France--The French-based ecumenical Taize community tried to pick up the pieces yesterday after the fatal stabbing of its popular 90-year-old founder, casting a shadow over a global Catholic youth festival starting in Germany.
Brother Roger Schutz was killed late on Tuesday in his Reconciliation church in Taize, in eastern France's Burgundy region, during a prayer service.
As a German cleric arrived in the region yesterday to take over the group, messages of sadness came from Pope Benedict XVI, French government ministers and other dignitaries.
A 36-year-old Romanian woman believed to be mentally disturbed was in police custody for allegedly plunging a knife into his back three times in front of 2,500 mostly young people attending the prayer service.
Schutz--a renowned Christian figure who was known everywhere in France simply as Brother Roger--was credited with infusing youth around the world with Christian teachings and religious tolerance. He is replaced by his nominated successor, Brother Alois Leser, a 51-year-old German Catholic.
Schutz, a Swiss-born Protestant with a degree in theology, started his Taize movement in 1940, to provide a refuge for those fleeing from the turmoil of World War Two.
He devoted the rest of his life to the reconciliation of Christian churches. His group counted members from some 30 countries.
Started as a Christian men's monastic order focused on meditation and prayer, it has developed over the years into an international pilgrimage site where thousands of people sing, pray and reflect on their beliefs.
Pope Benedict voiced his sadness at the news during an audience yesterday at his summer retreat of Castel Gandolfo.
"It is a very sad piece of news which touches me all the more in that I received only yesterday a moving letter from him," the pontiff said.
In the letter, Schutz said he was thinking of the Pope and those attending the Catholic World Youth Day festival in Cologne, Germany, the pontiff said.