Last August the world lost one of its foremost ecumenists and spiritual leaders. Br. Roger Schutz, founder and prior of the ecumenical religious community of Taizé in Eastern France, was stabbed to death by a Romanian woman suffering from schizophrenia.
It happened during an evening prayer service in the presence of thirty-five hundred people, most of them young pilgrims who had come from around the world to spend a week in prayer and reflection. Br. Roger had celebrated his ninetieth birthday in May.
Born in Switzerland, the youngest of nine children, Schutz grew up in a devout Calvinist family. At the age of twenty-five, he and three other young Swiss Protestants traveled to Cluny in France to live as monks in their own religious tradition. They chose Cluny because it had been the site of one of the largest Benedictine monasteries. In its heyday Cluny was home to more than one thousand monks. Over time, the community diminished in size until it died out more than four hundred years ago. Today one can visit only its ruins.
While at Cluny, Schutz learned that a woman in Taizé, a village five miles away, wanted to sell her farm. He and his fellow monks decided to buy it, and moved there to live a common life of work and prayer. The farm was located near the demarcation line that divided occupied and unoccupied France during World War II. In the early years of the war the brothers helped Jews...