Taize community gathers inter-faith youth in India

An estimated 6000 young people from 36 countries have gathered in Kolkata, India, for an international pilgrimage organised by the ecumenical Taize community.

The "international ecumenical pilgrimage" which concluded this week was "able to reach the hearts of young people," Auxiliary Bishop Theotonius Gomes of Dhaka told UCA News.

The Bangladeshi prelate, who attended the program, said it was "an encouraging sign and a ray of hope, as the young people are the future Church."

Prayers and meditation followed the typical Taize method of repeated chanting of songs, meditation and reflection on Gospel passages.

The aim, organizers said, was to support youth in their search for God and desire to commit themselves to Church and society. It also involved sharing, group discussions, workshops and cultural events around the themes of trust, peace and hope.

The Taize community was founded in Taize, a village in France, by the late Br Roger Schutz to work and pray for world peace.

Br Roger first came to Kolkata in 1976 and visited Blessed Teresa of Kolkata. With her, he coauthored three books - Meditations on the Way of the Cross, Mary Mother of Reconciliation and Prayer - The Freshness of a Source.

As youth from all over the world began to visit Taize in the 1960s, the brothers developed a special method of praying with them.

The community's present head, Br Alois, told UCA News there is an "urgent need to evolve relevant forms of prayer and support for Christian youth."

He said he noticed the Taize method of repetitive singing has "very astonishing similarity" to the singing of Indian bhajan (devotional song). That, he continued, "makes us feel very close."

"These people take responsibility in society and they will have children. It is about how to transmit the sense of peace to the children and not to transmit the wounds that we have endured. It is the young adults who want to give their energies for peace," said Br Alois also told NDTV.

Br Alois said he was "encouraged to see several bishops mixing with the young people in a very simple way, a great gift and already a sign of peace."

The brother, who was on his first visit to India, said he noticed Indians have "a strong sense of the sacred, which creates respect for other religions and leads to a sense of the value of human life."

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India invited the Taize community and collaborated with parishes of Calcutta Catholic archdiocese, the Protestant Church of North India and Syrian Orthodox Church. The program was led by 14 Taize brothers.

Geeta Catherine Dadra, 24, from the northern Indian state of Punjab, found the structured prayer "simple" but meaningful. The member of the Indian National Youth Movement said she also was attracted by the periods of silence. She had just spent three months at Taize, which helped her realize how her faith "was not as deep as I thought and my need to grow spiritually."

Similarly, Raphael Rupert from Germany told UCA News that though he grew up in a "very Catholic family, prayer was a routine." The Taize approach, he added, strengthened his faith "with its simplicity."

A 25-year-old Catholic medical student from Poland, Bartek Nowak, said the songs, silence and diversity of people, as well as other participants' openness, led him to change his life for the better.

Thousands Attend Taize Prayer Program In Kolkata (UCA News, 10/10/06)
Spiritual message: Taize chants awaken youth (NDTV, 11/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)

Taize's Br Roger "in communion" with Catholic Church (CathNews, 7/9/06)
US women Benedictines launch Taize -style ecumenical community (CathNews 6/7/06)
Catholic funeral for Taizé 's Brother Roger (CathNews 23/8/05)
Pope shocked at slaying of Taizé's Brother Roger (CathNews 18/8/05)

12 Oct 2006