Murder casts shadow over World Youth Day

17th August 2005, Comments 0 comments

17 August 2005, COLOGNE - The murder in France of Roger Schutz, who founded a religious community that sought to bridge divisions among Christians, cast a shadow Wednesday at the first full day of the Catholic Church's World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany.

17 August 2005

COLOGNE - The murder in France of Roger Schutz, who founded a religious community that sought to bridge divisions among Christians, cast a shadow Wednesday at the first full day of the Catholic Church's World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany.

But the boisterous enthusiasm of the youth congress, attended by 405,000 young Catholics from 195 nations, remained. Many were school-age, attending an international religious festival for the first time in their lives, and had scant knowledge of Schutz.

As the day wore on, more than 750 bishops, who have gathered in Cologne to preach on the faith this week in more than 30 languages, added prayers for Schutz, who was known as Brother Roger, and explained to the young Catholics his contribution to ecumenism.

The chairman of Germany's Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, described the murder as an "incomprehensible crime".

He praised Schutz as a man who had dedicated his life to Jesus' message of the need for reconciliation among people.

"Brother Roger was one of the most important religious figures of our time," said German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. "His model and his goals will not be forgotten and will continue to have effect."

Swiss-born Schutz, who founded the community at Taize near Dijon in the Burgundy region in 1940, was killed Tuesday by an apparently deranged assailant who stabbed him during evening prayers. He was 90.

After World War II, the community grew into an institution that every year drew tens of thousands of young Protestants and Catholics from across Europe on pilgrimages. They partly inspired the Catholic Church to do likewise with its series of World Youth Days.

At a Cologne church, St Agnes, which functions as an outpost of Taize, many of the young pilgrims wept openly Wednesday and lit candles when the news of Schutz's murder emerged.

"We cannot understand this crime," said 24-year-old Claire Tissot from Dijon.

"It simply does not make sense to kill an old sick man," said 25- year-old Angelika Mueller from Munich.

Elsewhere, bridges across the Rhine were packed with young people waving national flags and banners as they flocked from the event's various attractions to lunch at soup kitchens on the city fairgrounds in the bright sunshine.

Like the crowds that gather every summer at Taize, the Cologne pilgrims, most aged 16-30, wore T-shirts and tattered jeans. Many looked short of sleep, but were carried along by the excitement of being part of a grand occasion.

Security was relaxed. Rather than an atmosphere of prayer, the event had the air of a football match, with great chants of "Portugal" and names of other nations sweeping through the high-spirited crowds.

The six-day festival's motto is "We have come to worship him", a reference to the Three Kings or Magi who are patrons of the city and are recorded as visiting the infant Jesus in his stable.

The festival is to reach its first high point on Thursday with the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI in Cologne, which straddles the Rhine river and is decked with posters of the pontiff.

The 78-year-old pontiff has chosen his native Germany for his first trip outside Italy since being elected pope in April.

But World Youth Day will also represent a major test as to whether the new pope can warm the hearts of church followers and to step out from the shadow of his predecessor, John Paul II, who was one of the most popular pontiffs in modern history.

The youth day programme includes rock music, dance and theatre festivals as well as poetry readings and workshops about AIDS prevention and sex. Dozens of Catholic groups have set up events to recruit new members.

With older people joining in, about 800,000 people are expected to attend an open-air mass on Sunday, the final day of the congress, which is to be presided over by Pope Benedict.

DPA

Subject: German news

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