TAIZĀ, France, Aug. 23 - Brother Roger Schutz pursued many ecumenical dreams in his long life, but in death one of them came true: At a Eucharistic service celebrated Tuesday by a Roman Catholic cardinal for Brother Roger, a Swiss Protestant, communion wafers were given to the faithful indiscriminately, regardless of denomination.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Vatican's council for the unity of Christians, who celebrated the Mass, said in a homily, "Yes, the springtime of ecumenism has flowered on the hill of Taiz´." Beyond religious divisions, Brother Roger also abhorred the division between rich and poor. "Every form of injustice or neglect made him very sad," Cardinal Kasper said.
Brother Roger's community and friends, including President Horst K÷hler of Germany and the retired archbishop of Paris, Jean-Marie Lustiger, attended the liturgy in the vast wooden monastery church at Taiz´, while thousands more followed it on a huge screen in fields outside the church.
Brother Roger was 90 when he was stabbed to death by a Romanian woman, Luminita Solcan, 36, during an evening service in the church one week ago. His successor, the Rev. Alois Leser, a Roman Catholic priest from Germany, prayed for forgiveness: "With Christ on the cross we say to you, Father, forgive her, she does not know what she did."
The gathering here in the hills of eastern France under leaden, showery skies reflected the spirit, and also the popularity, of Brother Roger, the son of a Swiss Calvinist pastor, who first gathered followers here in 1940. The monastic community here encompasses about 90 members from 20 or so countries and virtually every Christian denomination. Four Roman Catholic priests from among the members celebrated the funeral Mass with Cardinal Kasper.
Brother Roger's simple wooden coffin, a wooden icon lying upon it, was carried into the church by brothers. It was followed by a group of Romanian children who had been visiting the community when Brother Roger was killed.
Brother Roger founded Taiz´ as a monastic order only a 10-minute drive from Cluny, the site of Europe's largest and best-known monastic abbey before its destruction during the French Revolution. In the 1970's, Taiz´ developed into a pilgrimage site where people from different countries and faiths gathered annually at Easter. Many returned, in sadness, on Tuesday. Holding candles, they followed his coffin in procession to the Taiz´ cemetery.
Petra Simmert, a schoolteacher from southern Germany, came with her husband and two children. She is Protestant, he Catholic; one child is Catholic, the other Protestant. "We're an ecumenical family," she said, with a laugh. Watching the funeral of Pope John Paul II on television, they saw Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, give communion to Brother Roger, even though he was not Catholic. "That struck us," she said.