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ROGER-FUNERAL (UPDATED) Aug-24-2005 (620 words) With photos posted Aug. 23. xxxi

Some 10,000 Christians gather in Taize for funeral of Brother Roger

By Peter Allen
Catholic News Service

TAIZE, France (CNS) -- Some 10,000 Christians of various denominations traveled to the Church of the Reconciliation in the village of Taize, in the eastern Burgundy region of France, for the funeral of Brother Roger Schutz, the renowned ecumenical leader.

It was in the church, exactly one week earlier, that the 90-year-old monk had his throat cut by a mentally unstable Romanian woman during a prayer service.

Brother Roger's principal message had always been one of unity, and it was the Vatican's chief ecumenist, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, who celebrated the funeral Mass.

Anglican Bishop Nigel McCulloch of Manchester, England, who represented the archbishop of Canterbury, did the first reading in English. The second reading was pronounced in French by the Rev. Jean-Arnold de Clermont, president of the Conference of European Churches, and in German by Bishop Wolfgang Huber, head of the Evangelical Church in Germany.

Cardinals and archbishops, Orthodox, Anglican and other religious leaders and international politicians joined ordinary Christians in prayer during the funeral.

In his homily, Cardinal Kasper said: "Brother Roger caused love and hope to shine around him, far beyond the barriers and divisions of this world. A man of communion, he nourished in his heart and in his prayer a deep desire for reconciliation and encounter.

"The springtime of ecumenism has flowered on the hill of Taize, in this Church of the Reconciliation, where members of different Christian traditions meet in respect and dialogue, in prayer and fraternal sharing, inspired by the presence and example of Brother Roger," he said.

Brother Roger's successor as head of the Taize community, Brother Alois Leser, a German Catholic, welcomed some 2,000 people packed into the church and thousands more watching on large screens outside. He also prayed for forgiveness for Luminita Solcan, who stabbed Brother Roger. Police are still questioning Solcan to see if she is mentally fit to be prosecuted. Her doctor in Romania said she suffered from schizophrenia and was off prescribed medication at the time of the attack.

Ninety of the community's 100 brothers attended the funeral; the others remained at their outposts in Brazil, Senegal, Bangladesh and South Korea. Five of the brothers, wearing white hooded robes, carried Brother Roger's casket into the church.

"Roger's legacy is one of simple peace," said Claude Boyer, a 29-year-old student who traveled from Geneva for the funeral. "The appalling circumstances of his death only reinforce our love for him."

"Brother Roger had a special appeal to the young," said Christian Hampton, 19, of Birmingham, England. "The community he has set up here will live on for many years to come."

After the service, Brother Roger was buried in a simple ceremony in the community's cemetery, where his mother and other Taize brothers are interred.

Brother Roger, born in 1915 in Switzerland, was a minister of the Swiss Reformed Church and a hugely popular figure who touched thousands of lives. Over the years, rumors have circulated that he converted to Catholicism.

At Pope John Paul II's funeral, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, gave Communion to Brother Roger.

Vatican officials who did not want to be named said in July that Brother Roger's reception of Communion at the papal funeral was not foreseen, but was a result of a series of circumstances that placed him in the group receiving Communion from Cardinal Ratzinger. It said refusing him Communion seemed impossible, in part because Brother Roger shared fully the Catholic belief in the Eucharist.

The officials said the Catholic rule against shared Communion still holds, and inter-Communion is not practiced at Taize.

- - -

Contributing to this story was John Thavis at the Vatican.


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