Correspondent explores Taize ecumenical ambiguities

Following a visit to Taize in France, the National Catholic Reporter's Rome correspondent John Allen has written that some ecumenists in Rome are silent on the ecumenical community founded by the later Brother Roger Schutz because Taize "almost pretends that divisions among Christians don't exist".

CLICK HEREAllen says the Rome ecumenists consider that Taize "never quite violat[es] rules on matters such as inter-communion, but downplay[s] the distinctions among the various Christian bodies".

"This tension was clear, for example, in reactions to the news that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger administered Communion to Shutz at the 2 April funeral Mass of Pope John Paul II," he said. "Some applauded what they saw as ecumenical generosity, while others complained about a compromise in the church's identity. Some even speculated that perhaps Shutz had secretly 'converted' to Catholicism."

Brother Emile told Allen during the latter's visit to Taize that he was saddened to see Shutz "misunderstood" even in the last weeks of his life.

"People underestimated how far he had gone," Brother Emile said. "He was living something that does not yet exist."

Emile complained that a Vatican press statement about the incident has been misinterpreted to suggest that it was basically an accident, a case of Shutz being in the wrong place at the right time. In fact, Emile said, the statement refers to Shutz as a "special case."

To call Shutz's embrace of Catholicism a "conversion," Emile said, would be a kind of category mistake.

"What he had achieved was inner reconciliation with Catholicism without any breaking of communion with his origins," Emile said.

Emile insisted that Taize does not weaken the commitment of Catholics to their own tradition.

"How can you be less Catholic if you're open to others?" he asked. "Being Catholic is not about being against anyone. It's about valuing the treasures of our faith."

On the question of Taize's position on whether one can be both Catholic and Protestant at the same time, Brother Emile said it "has to be worked out".

"The aim is to value one's own tradition and let go of what is artificially against another's tradition," he said.

"This can't be understood in traditional categories," Emile said. "Divisions are always very clear, but not the unity underneath them. This should not be judged in a cheap way," he said.

A visit to Taize (National Catholic Reporter 16/9/05)

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20 Sep 2005