Remembering a great man, L’Arche founder Jean Vanier, who dies at 90
Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche (1964), a community which supports people with disabilities, has died at the age of 90. His community is active all over the world with about 150 centres. He spent his whole life giving hope to suffering people: The message of the Gospel, he said, is to become men and women of compassion. If you become a man or a woman of compassion, you will be like Jesus.
Pope Francis was informed of his death and the ad interim director of the Vatican Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti, said the Pope “prays for him and for the whole L’Arche community”. Jean Vanier had met with Pope Francis on March 21, 2014, calling him a man of smiles and encounter.
Born in Geneva on September 10, 1928, Vanier, a former officer in the Canadian Navy, also co-founded the movement “Foi et Lumiere” (Faith and Light) in 1971. He was a member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and in 2015 received the Templeton Prize, one of the highest awards given every year to personalities from the religious world.
Jean Vanier said: “Our mission is to encounter a world of extreme weakness, poverty and suffering, people who have often been rejected. They are great witnesses of God.
L’Arche is a place of reconciliation where people of very different religions and cultures can meet and this transforms the lives of people with disabilities, but also transforms the volunteers. L’Arche, after all, is a place of celebration where the aim is for everyone to be happy.
On the occasion of being awarded the Templeton Prize, again in an interview with Vatican Radio, Jean Vanier said: “This prize draws attention to people with disabilities, and this is important. In fact, the particular aspect of L’Arche, as well as Faith and Light, is the revelation that people with mental disabilities are super people!”
“We want to be a sign of the importance of people with disabilities, because they have a message to give, but few know it: they, in fact, were chosen to be the great witnesses of God!”
Jean Vanier recalled the importance of living together: “I believe strongly that today it is necessary to create communities that live the values of the Gospel: to live together, to live the Beatitudes and to discover that the life of the Beatitudes, the life of the Gospel can be lived very simply by living together. The message of the Gospel is to become men and women of compassion. If you become a man or a woman of compassion, you will be like Jesus.”
In another interview Jean Vanier emphasized the importance of joy: “I think the whole vision of evangelization is joyful, because we have received the Good News!
The world is not only a world of violence, but the Word made flesh, God came to tell us something. God loves humanity, God is present. This does not mean that there is no struggle against evil. There is violence in the world; there is violence in me and in all of us. But Jesus is stronger and we keep the hope that He will help us.”
Jean Vanier in an interview with Vatican Radio (see video below):