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Taizé: 5 cases of sex abuse. Frère Alois’s shocking letter, “we feel shame and deep pain”

“If I am speaking today, it is because I have very sadly learnt of cases that involve our brethren and, even if they date back to years ago, we, within the Community, thought we had to talk about this. These are five cases of sexual assault committed on children between the Fifties and the Eighties by three different brethren, two of whom died over fifteen years ago”. This can be read today in a shocking letter written by Frère Alois and published today by the Community of Taizé. Founded in 1940 by Frère Roger, the Community of Taizé is an international Christian ecumenical monastic community, based in a small centre in Taizé, in Southern France. Its special call is providing spiritual support to young people who go up to the hills of Taizé to spend time studying, praying or meditating. Every year, it promotes European meetings in different European cities, bringing together thousands of boys and girls from the continent and from different Christian Churches. “When I have learnt about such charges – Frère Alois writes –, my first step was listening to the victims, with other brethren, perfectly respectful of their words, listening to their sufferings and supporting them as best as I could”. The current prior of the Community announced that – after consulting the victims first – he informed the Public Prosecutor about such five cases, to “go on with our work about the truth”. “Today – Frère Alois writes – our first thoughts go out to them; by listening to what they experienced and suffered, we feel shame and deep pain. Maybe our talking about it may lead other potential victims to step up: we will listen to them and we will support them in the steps they may want to take. We believe that only by shedding light on such deeds will we help, with the assistance of people that do not belong to the Community, to effectively protect all those who trust us when they come to Taizé. If I am speaking today, it is because we owe it to the victims, to their families and to those people who come to Taizé in search of a place of trust, safety and truth”. The Letter ends by giving the details to report “any assault, old or recent, committed against a child or an adult, by a brother who abused his moral ascendancy or by anyone else”. Reports may be sent by email to: protection@taize.fr or to a victims’ association or through the national telephone number, the details of which can be found on the website.
In these years in which society and the Church are trying to shed light on sex abuse and assaults, especially against children and vulnerable people, “my brethren and I thought we ought to speak up too”. Alois wants people to know that, in Taizé, “we have always tried to make sure our acceptance takes place in the best possible conditions, respectful of beliefs and with great care for everyone’s safety and integrity”, but he also says he is aware that, among the people taking part in the meetings, “integrity may have been violated”. And he adds: “When we learn about it, we take care of listening to the victims and informing the legal and ecclesiastic authorities concerned”. Since 2010, a page of the website has been set aside for people’s protection and an email address makes it easier to report the cases. On site, in Taizé, one of the brethren and people that do not belong to the Community are in charge of listening to anyone who is aware of a sex assault or any other form of abuse, especially against children: this is included in the information that is provided to the guests as they arrive.

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