Jean Vanier, Christian Advocate for the Developmentally Disabled, Dies at 90

Jean Vanier. Photo courtesy of Templeton Prize, John Morrison

Jean Vanier, a Canadian religious figure whose charity work helped improve conditions for the developmentally disabled in multiple countries over the past half-century, has died at 90.

A charity he founded, L’Arche, said Vanier died Tuesday (May 7) in Paris after suffering from thyroid cancer.

Pope Francis was informed of Vanier’s death and is praying for him and the community, according to Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti.

Vanier worked as a Canadian navy officer and professor before turning to charity work. A visit to a psychiatric hospital prompted him to found L’Arche in 1964 as an alternative living environment where those with developmental disabilities could be full-fledged participants in the community instead of patients.

The charity now has communities in 38 countries that are home to thousands of people both with and without disabilities.

“He saw people locked up, and he decided to make a gesture, inspired by the Bible,” said Pierre Jacquand, who leads L’Arche’s facilities in France. “He felt a calling to defend the most marginalized.”

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Source: Religion News Service