Religious leaders around the world expressed shock and sorrow at the news that Brother Roger Schutz, founder of the Taize religious community, was stabbed to death August 15 during an evening service at the community’s church near Macon in Burgundy, France. “This is an indescribable shock. Brother Roger was one of the best loved Christian leaders of our time, and hundreds of thousands will be feeling his loss very personally, and remembering him in prayer and gratitude,” said a statement by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. “But the shock and trauma for the community at Taize will be heavy — and it will be for all the young people who witnessed this event. All of them are in our prayers.” There were around 2,500 young pilgrims at the Reconciliation church when a 36-year-old Romanian woman, believed to be mentally disturbed, attacked the 90-year-old Christian leader, according to the BBC. Pope Benedict XVI said he was saddened at the news having just received a “moving letter” from Brother Roger this week informing him that he was sorry that he could not attend the World Youth Day celebrations scheduled for August 18 in Cologne, Germany. Archbishop of Bordeaux and president of the French Episcopal Conference Jean-Pierre Ricard sent a letter to the Taize community expressing his “deep grief” over the murder of “this great figure of a researcher and witness of God, impassioned by unity among Christians and reconciliation.” Brother Roger founded Taize in 1940 when he was 25 in what was then a semi-abandoned village in Burgundy. His mother’s family was from the area. It became a safe haven for political refugees and for people of all faiths, among them Jews fleeing the Holocaust. Today, the community is composed of monks from various Christian traditions around the world who vow to live in joy, simplicity and mercy as a “parable of community,” and as a “sign of the Gospel’s call to reconciliation at the heart of the world,” according to a Web site devoted to Taize. “The community has always supported itself by its own labor, refusing any donations for its own life, even family inheritances. If this leads to a certain simplicity of lifestyle, that is yet another way to make the Gospel apparent, to focus on the essential.” Some members have gone to “live in situations of poverty and division throughout the world, as a concrete sign of solidarity,” it added. Each year, thousands of young people from around the world visit the Taize monastic community, drawn by its practice of meditative prayer emphasizing peace, love and reconciliation.