Christian philosopher, writer and humanist Jean Vanier, an ardent advocate for the most marginalised by society, died on 7 May aged 90.
Pope Francis paid tribute to him as he travelled back to the Vatican after a three-day apostolic visit to the Balkan nations of Bulgaria and North Macedonia.
“I want to express my gratitude for his testimony” Pope Francis told journalists aboard the papal flight from Skopje to Rome, as he recalled Jean Vanier who died on Tuesday.
As he prepared for the questions put to him during the usual inflight press conference upon his return from an apostolic visit abroad, the Pope’s priority was to pay his heartfelt tribute to the man whom, he said, was able to read and interpret the Christian gaze on “the mystery of death, of the cross, of suffering”, on “the mystery of those who are discarded by the world.”
Jean Vanier, who gave up a career in the Navy to follow in the footsteps of Christ, was the founder of two international organisations for people with intellectual disabilities: “L’Arche” and “Faith and Light.” He advocated for marginalised people for over five decades, highlighting the profound teachings and the gifts that they offer.
The Pope said he knew of Vanier’s illness through Sister Genevieve who kept him informed.
“A week ago I called him on the phone, he listened to me, but he could barely speak” he said.
Pope Francis said that Jean Vanier worked “not only for the least but also for those who, even before being born,” risk being condemned to death.
“He spent his life in this way” the Pope concluded: “Thank you to him and thank you God for having given us a man of such great witness.”
With thanks to Vatican News and Linda Bordoni, where this article originally appeared.