Brendan Gilligan

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Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, dies aged 90

Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, a community which supports people with disabilities, has died in Paris at the age of 90 after suffering from cancer.

Pope Francis was informed of his death and the interim director of the Vatican Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti said, the Pope “prays for him and for the whole L’Arche community”.

Born in Geneva in 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 has left an extraordinary legacy,” said L’Arche International leader Stephan Posner. “His Community of Trosly, the Communities of L’Arche, Faith and Light, many other movements, and countless thousands of people have cherished his words and benefitted from his vision.”
 
Vanier founded L’Arche in 1964 in response to the treatment that people with learning disabilities faced in 
institutions.
 
There are now more than 150 L’Arche communities in 38 countries around the world, where more than ten thousand people with and without learning disabilities create places of welcome and celebration, sharing in life together. There are 12 L’Arche Communities in the UK.

John Sargent, national leader of L’Arche UK, said: “Jean’s death is a great sadness. His vision was one of radical welcome, inclusion and joy, where marginalised people with learning disabilities are valued and celebrated.
 
“He will be greatly missed by people from all walks of life who have been influenced and changed by his teachings, which remain as relevant today as ever.”

In recent decades, after he retired from his role at L’Arche, Vanier foc-used on his work sharing a message of unity, dignity and diversity. Jean entrusted the organisation’s legacy to the people who define what L’Arche is today: its members and communities.

In addition to his work with L’Arche, Vanier co-founded Faith and Light, and inspired the creation of many other organisations. He influenced thousands of people around the world and published about 40 books on how people with learning disabilities make essential contributions to building a more humane society.

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