The Church's Radical Reform podcast

First Anglican to be appointed prior of Taizé talks about the synod and Christian unity

15 Sekunden vorwärts
15 Sekunden vorwärts

The synod process has the potential to bring about greater unity among Christians, the incoming leader of Taizé has said ahead of ecumenical prayer vigil ahead of the synod meeting in Rome. 

Brother Matthew (Andrew Thorpe) is the first Anglican to be appointed Prior of the Ecumenical Christian monastic fraternity in France, which has been organising a prayer vigil in St Peter’s Square on 30 September. This event will be the starting point for the synod and a three-day retreat, which participants will participate in before the synod’s formal opening on 4 October. 

Talking to “The Church’s Radical Reform” podcast, Br Matthew spoke about how “synodality and ecumenism go hand in hand” and that while Christians have got used to walking on “parallel paths”, he hopes that the synod will find “creative ways” to bring different Christian traditions closer together. 

“If the Catholic Church [through the synod] can recognise and cherish the diversity that is already within itself, is there a hope as well for a greater communion with Christians who are at this moment not part of the Roman Catholic Church? Can their diversity also be welcomed?” he said. 

Br Matthew, 58, explained that the 30 September gathering, “Together”, was the initiative of the current prior, Brother Alois, who conceived the idea at the launch of the synod process in October 2021. The event will be attended by young people and the leaders of 20 different churches and Christian traditions, including the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

“It’s true that when you speak about a synod on synodality, it’s not very easy for many people, especially young people, to understand what that’s about,” he said. “That is one of the reasons we called this ecumenical prayer vigil ‘together,’ because that’s a word which is easily understandable and which also expresses something of what the synod is.” 

The new prior, who will take up his position on 3 December 2023, explains the history of Taizè and his journey to joining the community at the age of 21, having grown up in Yorkshire, in the north of England. 

Br Matthew has been involved in the synod process, taking part in the European assembly in Prague earlier this year and the importance of “conversations in the Spirit”, which is the method of listening and consensus building that the synod assembly will use in the Vatican from 4-29 October. 

“It wasn’t arguing with each other or trying to put across your point of view, but it was listening to the Spirit, and listening to each other, in order to find a common path,” he says. “That is something that which can also help us on our ecumenical journey towards unity.”

Br Matthew said that at a time of “uncertainty, we look for clear identity”, with young people coming to Taizé sometimes attached to “traditional forms of worship,” movements associated with the climate crisis or tackling poverty. 

“It's a question of listening to what they are experiencing and giving them a place,” he said. 

But he also insisted that the Church cannot stand still, and the synod underlines that “the tradition is something constantly evolving, it’s not something locked up in a box somewhere.” Rather than “museum keepers,” he said, Christians should see themselves as “cultivators of a beautiful garden.

For more details about the prayer vigil: ⁠⁠  

Producer: Silvia Sacco

Editor: Jamie Weston

Image of Br Matthew: Marija Poklukar/Katoliška mladine

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