Following the current health situation in the world, the Taizé European meeting at the end of this year will take place online. How has the pandemic affected the life of the Taizé community, and what are the main ways of your continuous spiritual support to young people all over the world?
Brother Alois: We have to be more flexible, like everybody, and adapt to the situation. Our European meetings, for example – we have been holding them for 40 years already, always in a different city and country. This year’s meeting should have taken place in Torino, Italy – but as it cannot take place due to the current situation, we have decided not just to cancel it, and not just to have it as an online meeting at the end of the year. For the young adults from all over Europe to actually meet the local people, we will have a second meeting, from 7-10 July in Torino—hoping that this will be possible.
In Taizé, first of all, it was not easy for our community to adapt to the situation of the pandemic—there were moments when we had to completely close our welcome. We could not have imagined this, that we would be only among ourselves, the brothers. It was a difficult time on different levels – spiritual, psychological, even economically, as we had to find new ways of earning our living.
We are glad that people could come back this summer, when we had quite a lot of guests for the weekly meetings in Taizé.
Taizé has always cared for young people, supporting and inspiring them on their faith journey. Do you see any changes in how easy or difficult it is to attract attention of young people today, when most of our interactions take place online?
Brother Alois: We were astonished to find out that online prayers have been a help for so many people throughout the world. But the question remains how to accompany young people today on their spiritual research. They are looking for a meaning in life. We see surprising things happening during the youth meetings in Taizé—for example, after spending a week with our community, quite a lot of young people say that silence has been so important for them. So, it is not the teaching first of all – but the silence. And that is astonishing in today’s world. We see a deeper longing coming up to the surface, and young people feel the spiritual thirst deep down in them. If we feel there is a spiritual thirst within us, we become open to listen to the Gospel.
Besides the Taizé prayers available online, you now have also other activities, like meetings and workshops held online. Do you see it as a useful addition to the spiritual support the Taizé community can offer?
Brother Alois: Yes, it is very useful in the current situation, and perhaps also beyond the pandemic—these meetings online could continue in some way. But of course they cannot replace the personal encounter – we see that people who are coming to Taizé now are so glad they can meet in person again, be together in the church, sing together. Faith and community life belong together – we cannot separate them. Faith in Christ means to strengthen community life and to strengthen unity.
I will soon publish my message for next year, Becoming Creators of Unity, six proposals for unity. It is about promoting unity at all levels – in our society, where there are more and more divisions, in our churches, but also in our families and in our heart. Unity is indeed important also within each of us personally. This will be the theme and the topic for us this coming year.
Do you see intersections between your message on unity for next year, and the theme of the upcoming WCC Assembly, "Christ's love moves the world to reconciliation and unity"?
Brother Alois: They have the same focus, and I would like us to work more hand-in-hand in this regard. Taizé and the World Council of Churches share the same concern. We are looking forward to the WCC Assembly and hope to contribute to it.
The Taizé community carries on the ‘pilgrimage of trust’ started by Brother Roger over 30 years ago. What do you see as areas in the world today where trust is needed most?
Brother Alois: Everywhere, and in all our societies. What makes trust difficult is fear. And fear is more and more present and visible – fear of the foreigner, of those who are different, fear for the future, fear caused by climate change and ecological disasters. Trust is not just an easy answer – but rooting our life in the love of Christ always keeps a space open for hope. There is a horizon beyond: the resurrection of Jesus. There is a horizon beyond the end, or beyond what we see as the end, namely death. Faith in the resurrection of Christ opens up a horizon beyond the difficulties. It gives us hope and courage to face all difficult situations.
With so many divisions and so many people left on the margins today – what is your message to people in the world these Christmas?
Brother Alois: Christ came to be close to those who are on the margins, who are not privileged in life. This awakens in us a responsibility for sharing. Let’s start on our personal level, with sharing what we have. Also, our churches could become much more places for sharing, even materially, for helping each other and really forming communities of life together – not only communities for Sunday prayer, but communities of shared life.
Finally, we are called to share between countries and continents, especially between Europe and Africa. As Christians we have the responsibility and also the means to introduce more partnership between our continents. That would be so important for the future of humanity.
Let’s celebrate Christmas as an encouragement: with the very little we have, we can start.