The friendship of Christ for each and every one of us

August Thursday 17

Tonight we have been praying for the victims of the attack in Barcelona. The presence of young people from this region makes us even closer to those who have directly experienced these events. After this meeting, we will sing El Senyor, in Catalan language, with in particular these words: “No tinc por! Do not be afraid!”

It has been over fifty years that generations of young people succeed one another on our hill. For us brothers, it is a joy to welcome you. Brother Roger saw very early on how important it was for young people to be listened to and for their voices to be heard in society and in the church.

Yesterday we remembered Brother Roger. He was killed here in the church on August 16, 2005. His dynamism, his confidence were transmitted in our community by a kind of osmosis. To express our gratitude for his life, we have placed the icon of friendship in the front of the church. He loved that icon, an image of the friendship of Christ for each and every one of us.

At a moment in history when a fine human hope was being mistreated, it was the beginning of the Second World War, young Roger—he was 25—was not discouraged. He believed that peace was possible and that Christians had a contribution to make.

He had just gone through a period of doubt in his life. He had asked himself a lot: if God is love, why do Christians continue to justify their divisions so much? If God is love, Christians should show it through their lives, and be witnesses to reconciliation.

Then he made the decision to begin a life of reconciliation and peace himself. At the time he had not published many writings. That remained a constant until the end of his life: we must first live the call of the Gospel to peace and reconciliation, the writings will follow later.

Then some first brothers joined him to live a life in community, to give a sign of Christ’s peace by committing their entire lives.

Through countless difficulties that Brother Roger did not like to talk about, he remained faithful with the first brothers of the community. I myself came to Taizé in the 70s. With the brothers of my generation and with those who came later, we are incredibly grateful for the perseverance of the first generation of brothers.

Where did Brother Roger derive this dynamism, this inner strength? One of the answers lies in the words by which he summed up his approach to reconciliation among Christians. He said: “I found my own Christian identity by reconciling in myself the faith of my origins with the mystery of the Catholic faith, without breaking communion with anyone.” Sometimes he added “and with the Orthodox faith.”

He could no longer find his identity as a Christian in a confession that was opposed to others. He took up and loved the gifts placed in the different denominations. He acquired the conviction that these gifts are not mutually exclusive, but complement and even correct one another.

In his eyes, the divisions between Christians caused a mutual impoverishment. When our various traditions oppose each other and end up being absolutised on each side, they harden and become narrower. We need one another for the gospel to shine forth.

Coming from a Church of the Reformation, Brother Roger found in communion with the Catholic Church and with the Orthodox Church a widening of his faith. For my part, I can say that coming from a Catholic family, I discovered with Brother Roger and the first brothers the gifts of the Churches of the Reformation and of the Eastern Churches.

The celebrations of Eastern Christians plunge us into the worship of God. By their solemnity, by their beauty, they express the mystery of God which infinitely surpasses us and which nevertheless is close to us. I have an unforgettable memory of the pilgrimages we made with young people to Moscow, Kiev and Lviv, Minsk and Bucharest to celebrate Easter with the Eastern Christians.

And what are the gifts of the Churches of the Reformation that have become vital to my own faith? I would like to name four. First, the love of Scripture. The Reformation placed the Bible at the center of Christian life. God speaks to us through it. In the Gospels we hear the voice of Jesus; he becomes present to us.

Then the Reformation strongly reminded us that God is love and that his love is unconditional. I would like us in Taizé to express this message of freedom with all our strength.

A third gift of the Reformation is to remember that all believers can live a personal communion with God, and that those who have a ministry in the Church are at the service of that personal relationship each believer has with God.

A fourth gift of the Reformation is to defend freedom of conscience. Brother Roger lived it admirably. Not as a tolerance of any opinion at all but, more profoundly, as a trust given to every person he met.

He was convinced that God was present in every person, even if he or she was not aware of it. He knew how to invite others to believe in their possibilities. Countless people, after a brief encounter with him, regained the confidence that enabled them to make important decisions in their lives.

Of course, regarding these four gifts of the Reformation that I have emphasized, we can say today that they are also shared by the other Churches. It is nonetheless important to recognize the historical contribution of the Reformation for having highlighted these fundamental values of the Christian life.

In the third Proposal for 2017, you will find some topics of reflection to move towards the visible unity of Christians. Only if we are all together can the dynamics of the Gospel unfold. We can all become involved in this effort!

Something else: this week we are happy to be in communion with young Africans who are together in Tlemcen in Algeria. Since it is not always easy for them to get a visa to come to Taizé, four of them have just spent several weeks here on the hill and prepared themselves to lead two weeks of meetings there, as we do in Taizé.

At the end of September, another meeting will take place in Africa: with about a hundred young Europeans, we will go to Egypt to join a hundred young people from Egypt and the Middle East for a few days of joint pilgrimage.

These days, we are very attentive and concerned about the tensions in Northeast Asia. So we are all the more grateful to be able to maintain a link with North Korea.

Through our “Operation Hope” we have just sent twenty tons of soybeans to that country. Yesterday a truck crossed the border from China to North Korea and brought these soybeans to a plant that produces soy milk for small children.

We are praying for peace and for the poor people in North Korea. And we are happy about the presence among us of young people from China, Korea and other countries in East Asia. I asked Jing tonight to say a few words to us.

Jing : Good evening everyone. I’m Jing, from Beijing, the capital city of China. I’m 28 years old. I used to work in an advertising company, but I quit my job so as to be a volunteer in Taizé for three months. In my church, apart from worship services there are various activities for different age groups. We share and learn from each others’ life and experience. Once a month, we welcome newcomers of the church for a home-cooking party to know one another better.

The number of Chinese Christians is constantly growing, especially among the younger generation, whose family members are atheist or of other religions. I’m one of those young people. I was baptised three years ago. My mum is a Buddhist and my sister a Daoist. There are a lot of challenges in living our faith in China. Most young people have to work overtime and on weekends and they don’t have time to go to church. And in rural areas, people rarely have a chance to know about God and Christianity.

I would like to ask you to pray for the Christians in China, as well as for those who don’t have a chance to know about God. Last but not least, the next Pilgrimage of Trust, the international Taizé meeting, will take place in Hong Kong, from 8th to 12th of August 2018. On behalf of all Chinese Christians, with my friends from Hong Kong, I would like to invite all of you to this meeting.

Last updated: 17 August 2017