Pope Benedict has joined himself in prayer with the Taize community as the anniversary of the death of their founder, Brother Roger, and the milestone of the community's 70th year, approach. The Pope called the founder "a pioneer" in building the unity of Christians.
Brother Roger founded the now famous community in Taize, France on Aug. 20, 1940 to assist refugees of World War II, counting on the aid of friends and his sister. They devoted themselves to tending to all people in need, a charism that members continue to carry out to this day, nearly 70 years later.
The coming anniversary will be bittersweet for the community as this month also marks the fifth anniversary of the murder of their founder, which took place on Aug. 16, 2005 during evening prayer.
The anniversary has led many Christian leaders, including Pope Benedict, to send letters to the community, communicating their greetings, congratulations and condolences.
In a letter signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, the Holy Father transmitted his sentiments to the community's current prior Brother Alois.
The Pope said that he wished to show his "spiritual closeness" and "union in prayer with the community and with everyone" who is remembering Brother Roger over these days.
"A tireless witness to the gospel of peace and reconciliation, Brother Roger was a pioneer in the difficult paths toward unity among the disciples of Christ," he recalled.
Brother Roger's community continues to welcome thousands of young people from across the globe who seek meaning in their lives, noted Cardinal Bertone, recalling how they are welcomed in prayer and allowed to experience a personal relationship with God.
And, the letter continued, "although he has entered eternal joy, he still speaks to us,"
"May his witness to an ecumenism of holiness inspire us in our march towards unity, and may your Community continue to live and to radiate his charism, especially towards the younger generations!"
The community is unique in that it welcomes any Christian, from Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox backgrounds among its ranks. On its Taize.fr website the community describes itself as "a 'parable of community' that wants its life to be a sign of reconciliation between divided Christians and between separated peoples."
Concluding the letter to the community, Cardinal Bertone conferred the blessings of Benedict XVI on the Taize community and all who work with them in seeking the unity of Christ's disciples.
The community will be celebrating the double anniversary on Aug. 14.