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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 August 2005, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Christian leader stabbed to death
Brother Roger
Brother Roger is known by thousands of young Christians
The 90-year-old founder of the French-based Taize Christian ecumenical community has been stabbed to death at a prayer service.

Police detained a woman after the assault on Swiss-born Roger Schutz, who was known as Brother Roger.

Around 2,500 young people were at the Reconciliation church in Burgundy at the time of the attack.

Brother Roger founded the community during World War II to provide refuge to people of all Christian churches.

Brother Alois, 51, nominated by Brother Roger as his successor, was returning from the World Youth Day jamboree in Cologne to take his place, a community spokesman said.

Taize unites members of several Christian denominations from some 30 countries and attracts tens of thousands of young people each year for prayers and meditation.

Shock and confusion

Some of those at evening prayers on Tuesday are reported to have overpowered a Romanian woman after Brother Roger was stabbed.

Brother Roger was one of the best loved Christian leaders of our time
Dr Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury

The public prosecutor in nearby Macon, Jean-Louis Cost, said there seemed little doubt that the attack was premeditated. He said the woman had bought a knife the day before and "the intention to kill was obvious".

Mr Cost said her explanation was not clear at this stage, but she said she had tried for several months to contact Brother Roger - who was no longer granting private meetings.

He added that he had ordered that a psychiatric examination of the woman be carried out.

Pope Benedict XVI, due to travel to Cologne on Thursday for World Youth Day, said he was particularly dismayed at news of Brother Roger's death as he had received "a moving letter from him" only this week

Brother Roger had written to say he was sorry that he could not attend the celebrations himself because of his ill-health.

Man signs book in St Agnes Church, Cologne
The death has horrified Christians around the world

The news of the horrific death sent shockwaves through the Christian world:

  • German Prelate Heiner Koch said all the participants in World Youth Day were praying for "this great figure"

  • The president of the French Bishops' Conference, Archbishop of Bordeaux Jean-Pierre Ricard, expressed "deep grief" for the loss of "this great figure of a researcher and witness of God, impassioned by unity among Christians and reconciliation"

  • The Church of England's Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said it was an " indescribable shock" to lose "one of the best-loved Christian leaders of our time"

  • The Bishop of Manchester, the Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch, who had personal links with Brother Roger, described him as "one of the great visionaries of our time - a man of love and reconciliation who inspired young people all over the world to pray and to know God".

Your comments:

Brother Roger was a great man of God, full of compassion, joy and life. I have visited Taize twice as an adult in the 1990's. It is a truly loving, truly ecumenical place where Christians of all denominations can find love, acceptance and joy. I am deeply saddened that this wonderful, loving man has had his earthly life ended in such horrific circumstances. The world has lost one of it most inspirational Christian servants.
Chris Brock, Kings Lynn, England

Brother Roger has had an enormously positive effect on the life of the church, influencing countless others on the path of reconciliation. I first visited Taize 21 years ago at the age of 16 and found there a vision of community way beyond what I was experiencing in my local church. The international buzz and gently reflective worship, held together in a spirit of real simplicity contributed to one of the most profound stage posts on my spiritual journey, and I will always be grateful for the man we now mourn, who made this possible.
Father Matthew Catterick, Wembley Park

From first hearing the music of Taize when I was a teenager - to spending time in the community and making good friends there; Brother Roger has helped me to walk closer to Jesus. Thank you for him, and my prayers for Taize this time.
Stu Miller, Bournemouth

Another holy man is struck down in madness. Brother Roger in his words and actions express only love, hope and peace. He has changed the face of Christianity. The Taize prayer community in Victoria which brings together people of many faith communities will be ever grateful for his vision.
Harry, Victoria, Canada

I met Brother Roger last July. I'm shocked. Is this the end of the world. He was the Saint. Why?
Anniina Iivonen, Hameenlinna, Finland

Brother Roger's death is tragic. He spent his life living and preaching reconciliation between people of all nationalities and creeds, beginning in the aftermath of the Second World War - and he has to die like this. The community he founded and the music and distinctive chants associated with it have touched the lives of millions. May he rest in peace.
Ed Hone, Edinburgh

Our thoughts are very much with you at this time. We have been greatly influenced and blessed by Brother Roger's example and prayerful life. We first met each other at Taize. Love and prayers to you all.
Julian and Marie Raffay, Sheffield, UK

I'm shocked beyond words. I'm angry and confused and very sad. What was going on inside this woman's heart? What was she thinking? How deep could her confusion haven been? I have been to Taize several times when I was younger and although my belief system is somewhat non-institutionalised I always enjoyed being part of the Taize community for a few days. I always wanted to return there and I will; but it will not be the same.
Astrid, Cardiff, Wales

I am deeply saddened by brother Roger's death. I am in an Episcopalian church community in Seattle, where many people I know have been to visit Taize in France. I currently am involved in holding Taize services at our church. The music and meditative services have had a deep impact on me. I do not understand what took place, why he was murdered, much less during a service. I don't know what to make of it all. But I hope that the worldwide Taize community can, through time, gain some peace through this. I also hope that the music will become stronger, and that Brother Roger's legacy will continue into the distant future. Theresa La Rue Seattle, WA
Theresa, Seattle, WA, USA

In pictures: World Youth Day
16 Aug 05 |  In Pictures

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