Brother Roger's death spotlights issue of shared communion

CLICK HEREThe death of Brother Roger Schutz prompted an outpouring of sympathy on the part of many Catholics and expressions of ecumenical appreciation from Vatican officials, but it also highlighted the perennial issue in ecumenical dialogue, the Catholic Church's rules against shared Communion.

Catholic News Service reports that Brother Roger, who was stabbed to death earlier this month by a deranged woman, was a longtime friend of Pope John Paul II. The Holy Father had visited Brother Roger's Taize community in eastern France and lauded his efforts to bring Christians together in prayer.

Despite his ecumenical passion, Brother Roger, a minister of the Swiss Reformed Church, did not believe in shared Communion, and it was not practiced at the services in Taize. He also had good ties with the Vatican's doctrinal congregation, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.

So when Cardinal Ratzinger celebrated Pope John Paul's funeral Mass in April, he was probably surprised to see Brother Roger being rolled up in a wheelchair at the head of the Communion line.

Because the questions about Brother Roger's taking Communion would not go away, the Vatican made available in July an informal, unsigned statement of explanation. The bottom line appeared to be: 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, Cardinal Ratzinger.

The statement noted that Brother Roger shared the Catholic belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It also said his situation was unique and stressed that his receiving Communion did not represent a generalised policy.

With Brother Roger's death and funeral four months later, the question was revisited in news reports and in conversations around the Vatican. Informed Vatican officials, who spoke on background, emphasised that the church's position on shared Communion had not changed.

Meanwhile at Brother Roger's funral last Tuesday, communion wafers were given to the faithful indiscriminately, regardless of denomination, according to the New York Times, which presented the event as the fulfillment of one of his ecumenical dreams.

Shared Communion: Brother Roger's death spotlights perennial issue (Catholic News Service 26/8/05)
At His Funeral, Brother Roger Has an Ecumenical Dream Fulfilled (New York Times 23/8/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Taizé | Latest Updates
KTO Television Catholique - video of funeral

Melbourne backpacker tells of Brother Roger horror moment (CathNews 25/8/05)
Brother Roger laid to rest in Taizé (CathNews 24/8/05)
Catholic funeral for Taizé's Brother Roger (CathNews 23/8/05)
Pope shocked at slaying of Taizé's Brother Roger (CathNews 18/8/05)

Taizé Founder a "Pioneer of Unity," Says Pope (Zenit 26/8/05)
Taizé Founder Brother Roger Remembered (Christianity Today 18/8/05)
Thousands at monk's funeral (The Guardian 24/8/05)
Cardinal Kasper's Address at Brother Roger's Funeral (Zenit 24/8/05)

29 Aug 2005