Photos from Taizé website,

It was agreed amongst Christians of almost every sort – when Brother Roger Schutz, the founder of Taizé died the world lost a modern saint.

Such unanimity is rare in Christendom. In John’s gospel Jesus prayed that his followers may be one, that hasn’t happened, and there are all sorts of divisions and denominations and factions. Don’t we Anglicans know this!

For Anglicans and Roman Catholics and for many other Christians, the Eucharist – or the Mass – is central.

Roman Catholics, if they wish, can receive communion in Anglican churches. But the Roman Catholic Church frowns on the practice, and Anglicans are not to take communion at Roman Catholic services.

Brother Roger, a Lutheran, respected the Roman Catholic Church’s decision. At Taizé, an ecumenical centre, communion is not shared. Rather there are two sets of stations, one for Roman Catholics, another for Protestants. (How much the thousands of young people at Taizé paid attention to all this is another matter.)

So those who do pay attention to these matters were surprised last April to see at the funeral of John Paul II the small figure of the elderly Swiss Protestant being rolled up in a wheelchair at the head of the communion line.

From whom? No one less than Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who had for years defended his church’s general prohibition on shared communion.

What was going on? Had Roman Catholics changed their doctrine? Had Brother Roger secretly converted?

The Catholic News Service later reported the Vatican claimed “it was all an unfortunate mistake. Brother Roger, it seems, had been moved to a closer vantage point at the start of the Mass and had unwittingly ended up in the section reserved for those receiving communion from the chief celebrant. When he was wheeled forward it did not seem possible to refuse him the most Blessed Sacrament.”

You can believe it was an unfortunate mistake if you wish.

When Brother Roger died, the cardinal, now Pope Benedict XVI , in a message read at his funeral, stated that Brother Roger was one of “numerous generations of Christians, respecting their own confessions,” who have undergone “an authentic experience of faith, in the encounter with Christ, thanks to prayer and brotherly love, responding in this way to his invitation to live unity by the bond of peace.”

So maybe a non-Roman Catholic found salvation? Has another theological teaching been loosened? Of course he did and of course it is.

The point is nothing, no encyclicals, no theological hairsplitting, no elaborate doctrinal structures, none of that stuff, could trump the sheer love and goodness that the founder of Taizé displayed through the example of his life and work and holiness.

We have to remember, mired in separation, that what will bring true Christian unity are people living and leading as did Brother Roger Schutz.