Brother Roger’s vision of Christian unity


On several different occasions, Brother Roger ­attempted to articulate his vision of Christian unity. In the text A call for the reconciliation of Christians, Brother Alois quotes these words of the founder of Taizé:

Marked by the witness of my grandmother’s life, following her I found my own Christian identity by reconciling within myself the faith of my origins with the Mystery of the Catholic faith, without breaking fellowship with anyone.

Brother Roger’s personal journey begins with an inner reconciliation. Jesus proclaimed and expressed by his life God’s love for every human being without exception. Knowing that Jesus had entrusted to the community of his disciples the mission to witness to this love, and that over the centuries this community had broken up into fragments that were indifferent or hostile to one another, Roger asked himself, when he was still young, what could be done to make it consistent with its message. He knew that all by themselves no one could solve all the problems, theological and other, that split up the Body of Christ, the Church. At the same time, faced with the urgent need to communicate the Gospel, remaining passive was not an option for him. His conclusion: let us begin with ourselves, and widen our vision of the Church by opening ourselves to the gifts of faith, hope and charity lived by Christians of other traditions.

Brother Roger’s option implied a vision of the Church quite different from that which people usually have. We tend to imagine the Christian landscape as made up of different confessions or denominations existing side by side, each one claiming to be the true heir to Christ. But this human vision is deceptive. Seen with God’s eyes, the Church can only be one. It is not a reality of competition but of communion. All those who live in communion with God through Christ are led by this to live in communion with one another: “It is by the love that unites you that all will know that you are my disciples,” Jesus tells us (John 13:35).

Thus, rather than conceiving the Church as a plurality of collectivities with no relationship between them, we need to change our way of seeing to view it as a single reality in the process of construction (see Ephesians 4:15-16). If each part of the Christian people has developed better some aspects of the Mystery of the faith, can we move towards visible unity without being attentive to the gifts of other spiritual families? In the Call to reconciliation, Brother Alois indicates some of these gifts lived out in the course of centuries by the historical Churches. By attempting to discover and to deepen them, we prepare a coming together which will make the Church more transparent to the Gospel that it has to communicate.

Born in a Protestant family, Brother Roger was led to go back behind the divisions of the sixteenth century and to rediscover the great Catholic Tradition. Very early, he was also attentive to the treas­ures of faith of the Eastern Church. In doing this, he never wished to break fellowship with anyone or be a symbol of repudiation for those who transmitted the faith to him. Any idea of a “conversion,” a change from one denomination to another, was utterly foreign to him. He was always captivated by the words of Jesus “I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17) and he tried to anticipate this fulfillment in his personal life as well as in the life of the community he founded.

This reconciliation rooted in the heart must not remain an inner reality, of course. If the Church of Christ does not recover its visible unity, how could it open a way of peace for a world always prey to conflicts and divisions? For his part, Brother Roger was convinced that this unity could not simply be the fruit of theological or diplomatic agreements. First and foremost, it is rooted in prayer. In the Call to reconciliation, Brother Alois invites all Christians to a “vigil of reconciliation” held every one or three months. He does this in order to emphasize the fact that Christ is the one who unites us by calling us to enter into the communion between him and his Father in the Holy Spirit (see 1 John 1:3; John 14:23). Only such a communion is able to offer to a world torn apart the promise of a lasting reconciliation.

Last updated: 11 October 2008