Pope Francis told reporters he had been kept informed about Jean Vanier’s failing health and had phoned him a week before his death.
“He listened to me, but he could barely speak. I wanted to express my gratitude for his witness,” Pope Francis said on 7th May, the day Vanier died in Paris.
“He was a man who was able to read the Christian call in the mystery of death, of the cross, of illness, the mystery of those who are despised and discarded,” the pope said.
Pope Francis said Vanier also stood up for those “who risk being condemned to death even before being born.”
“Simply put, I want to thank him and thank God for having given us this man with such a great witness,” the pope said.
The death of Vanier, whose ministry helped improve the lives of developmentally disabled people in dozens of countries, drew prayers and words of condolence from Church leaders around the world.
Among them, Cardinal Nichols, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said: “At our gathering in Valladolid, we heard with deep emotion of the death of Jean Vanier. For over half a century he has inspired an entirely new appreciation of the gift of people with learning disabilities and revealed the most profound heart of human community. We pray for him and his beloved L’Arche communities at this moment of loss. May he rest in peace.”
Vanier, who died of thyroid cancer early on 7th May at the age of 90, founded L’Arche in 1964, allowing people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them to share their lives while living in community in an atmosphere of compassion.
Picture: Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities, is pictured in a 3rd March 2011 photo. Vanier, a Canadian Catholic figure whose charity work helped improve conditions for the developmentally disabled in multiple countries over the past half century, died on 7th May, aged 90. (CNS photo/courtesy Jean Vanier Association).